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Cause Marketing You Can Sew Believe In

Cecily Eastwood of Oxfordshire, England was teaching school in Kitwe, Zambia when, just a few months into her gap year, the 19-year-old was tragically killed in a road accident.

In her memory, her parents established Cecily’s Fund, a registered charity which works to support the education of children orphaned by AIDS in and around Kitwe.

In support of the nonprofit called American Friends of Cecily’s Fund, the February 2010 issue of the magazine Sew News invited readers to sew and embroider grocery-store style totes according to a pattern provided online, and then send them to the charity’s US operations to be sold as a fundraiser. (Sew News does a charitable campaign like this yearly. In 2011 they're asking readers to sew lap quilts to benefit the Alzheimer's Association.)

I can imagine buying a handmade tote like this for my wife or daughters.

The goal was to create 1,000 totes. I couldn’t find any word on whether or not they hit their mark.

My heart loves this simple grassroots cause marketing effort, so emblematic of what’s right in this world. The people that participate have talent, fabric, a sewing machine, and time, and they give of themselves in a way that that is genuine, earnest, and wonderfully noncommercial.

There’s hope for a world that has people who sit down at their sewing tables to sew little acts of love like these totes.

But my head swims at the thought of 1,000 or so people sewing and then spending $4-$5 to ship their totes so that it could sell for, what, $20? I can imagine some that won’t sell at all. For that matter I can’t imagine how they will sell any of them.

The website of American Friends of Cecily’s Fund doesn’t have the horsepower to describe and display pictures of 1,000 totes. You certainly wouldn’t want to commoditize the totes by treating them as though they were interchangeable. After all, the point of the exercise is that the totes are all handmade and hand-decorated. One of the things Sew News called on readers to do was sew or embroider by hand Cecily’s Fund's simple logo on the tote.

Does American Friends of Cecily’s Fund sell the bags at arts and crafts fairs? If so they’d almost certainly have to pay a fee along with a percentage of the gross sales, cutting into the donation amount. They might get the totes in retail, but they'd have to give up half the retail price to the store. Plus, outside of the context of the cause, people probably wouldn't pay as much.

Maybe they sell them at American Friends of Cecily’s Fund events. But 1,000 bags would be quite a few for a small cause to swallow and liquidate even over the course of a year.

My heart wants to love this authentic and heartfelt effort. My head just won’t let it. So I’ll have to be satisfied by saying thank God for the good and decent people of this people world who respond to appeals like this.


JMS said…
Great Point Paul, integration is an essencial part of any social or cause marketing movement. If there's any that "doesn't ring a bell", check it out again and fix it. In your post is so clear the economic and the logistic problem that American Friends of Cecily’s Fund has, rare but its the truth... although - as you say- it's really a great effort and a new way to involve people to social good movement!.
As always, great stuff Paul.

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