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Four Publications, Four Sponsors, Four Seal Campaigns

Remember the scene in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off when he’s rhapsodizing about the 1961 Ferrari GT California Spyder he’s been bombing around Chicago in? He says to the camera, breaking the fourth wall, “It is so choice. If you have the means I highly recommend picking one up.” Means indeed. A vintage 250 is said to set one back a cool $10 million.

In a like way, if your charity brand has the means, I highly recommend that you pick up a kind of cause marketing that I’ve come to call a ‘seal campaign.’ Seal campaigns are endorsements or licensing arrangements that carry the logo or seal of a charity, usually following an audit of some kind and the payment of a fee. Think seals of approval.

The one I see the most often these days is for the Forest Stewardship Council, which was founded in Bonn, Germany in 1993. The FSC has a rather complicated organizational structure, but suffice it to say that the FSC seal can be seen in dozens of countries across the globe on every kind of packaging, emblazoned on wood itself and printed on coffee cup sleeves, to name just a few places.

If the FSC were a car, it would be a rare $10 million Ferrari.

But even non-vintage Fords and Chevys can and do have successful seal campaigns.

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses for instance, has offered its seal of approval to Bayer rose and garden chemicals.

The Skin Cancer Foundation offers a seal of approval to a skin-care products, especially sunblocks.

With 1400 or so members and now in its tenth year, One Percent for the Planet isn’t as big as founder Yvon Chouinard says he wishes it were, or thought it would be. But it’s a terrific business model, eminently sustainable and attractive to outfits like Fiji Water.

I’ve opined here in the past that the Fair Trade Certified probably has a better chance at long-term success than rivals with their super-detailed certification processes. By contrast the Fair Trade Alliance requires only that buyers pay producers more for farmed goods and handicrafts than the prevailing market prices.

Could your nonprofit pull off a seal effort? Maybe.

It would probably need to meet a certain level of name recognition. And it wouldn't hurt if your organization’s name signifies what it does. Your organization would need to be able to develop some kind of standard that sponsors must meet. And it would need to have the will to enforce that standard honestly. If you can get away without actually having to physically test stuff, all the better.


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