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Bridging the Gaps in Cause Marketing

Pictured at left is a circular for Designerchecks.com from the Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database. The circular, circa 2007, features two cause-related marketing efforts; one for the New York City police officers and firefighters who performed so bravely during 9-11, and the other for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Ignore for the moment the weak and confusing “portion of the proceeds” language on the firefighter check and concentrate instead on what else is in play besides the transaction-based cause marketing.

Everyone that buys either of those checks is identifying themselves as someone who has so much affinity for the New York City firefighters and police officers of 9-11, or for breast cancer research that they’re willing to put a ‘bumper sticker’ on their checks saying as much!

Imagine the value to those two nonprofits to have the list of people who bought those checks. It would be the hottest kind of list.

While for-profits commonly approach non-profits for their lists, it’s less common for the lists to go the other direction. But how hard would it be for Designerchecks.com to provide lists to the respective charities as an element in their sponsorship/licensing agreement?

We’re almost 30 years into modern cause marketing and companies and nonprofits still don’t fully understand one another's needs.

That stems from the fact that on the nonprofit side cause marketers tend to be ‘siloed.’ At one of the big disease charities, for instance, a cause marketer might not even know a direct marketer in the firm. (Although at smaller charities the cause marketer and direct marketer are likely to be the same person).

On the corporate side few cause marketers fully realize how charities fundraise and where the money comes from.

Pop quiz for you folks on the corporate side. On average, how much of the funds raised by charities comes from individuals?

The answer is more than 75 percent.

A big chunk of that comes from major donors, but a lot of it comes courtesy of direct mail efforts. In other words, every charity needs a list. And lists with high affinity are much more valuable than those with low affinity. Duh, right?

On the nonprofit side, few cause marketers know how much pressure their for-profit colleagues are under to keep their brand out in front, even when the partner is a nonprofit.

It’s time we bridge these gaps.

Bridging gaps starts with understanding and understanding starts with lunch. What I'm suggesting is that you call one or more of cause marketing partner and invite them to lunch.

Don't have a cause marketing partner? Find one on LinkedIn and strike up a conversation. If that's too bold for you contact me at aldenkeene @ gmail dot com and I'll endeavor to make a nice warm introduction to someone. I'm only making this offer to for-profits looking to take a non-profit cause marketer to lunch, not the other way around.

If you’re on the corporate side, you’re buying.

If you're an agency, wrangle a meet-up with both parties. Oh, and you're buying.

If you’re a nonprofit cause marketer and an invitation isn’t forthcoming from a sponsor, then you need to call a colleague from the direct mail division, say, or the Major Donors staff.

If you’re from a small nonprofit with few employees, take the boss to lunch and try to get into her head to find out what she wishes you knew.

Either way, I suggest a multi-course Chinese meal served family style on one of those Lazy Susan things; because it will take longer and because sharing a dish family style is the starting point to shared trust.

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