Cause Marketing or Corporate Philanthropy Program? It’s Not a Yes or No Question.

If your company is an active corporate cause marketer, should it also be an active corporate donor?

The short answer is yes.

The question was prompted by a press release I saw recently announcing a new cause marketing effort from Godiva, the high-end chocolatier owned by the Turkish company Yildiz Holding, and headlined ‘Godiva Launches Philanthropy Program.’ 

Now Godiva almost certainly didn’t write the headline for the release I saw, but a quick reading made it clear that what Godiva was announcing was more a cause marketing than a corporate philanthropy effort.

Godiva’s program recognizes women around the world who “contribute to their communities and inspire others to do the same.” The first honoree is Lauren Bush Lauren and the recipient of funds raised will be the charity she co-founded, FEED Projects, a global anti-hunger charity.

A new honoree will be chosen in 2013.

In time for Mother’s Day in the United States, Sunday May, 13, 2012, you can buy FEED tote bags… made by women in Liberia… online and at Godiva stores for $25. The tote bags will yield 10 meals for schoolchildren in the cacao-producing countries of Africa. Several of Godiva’s boxes are also packaged with the totes to also yield a donation to FEED.

It’s a nice campaign that’s been well thought-through. So, is Godiva done here?

The short answer is not if that’s all they do.  

Companies that do cause marketing should also be active donors to nonprofits, whether through a corporate foundation or by just writing checks.

Here’s why. Cause marketing is like one of those 7-layer chocolate cakes. It’s big and impressive and almost everyone wants a taste. But even though it is made with wholesome ingredients like eggs, milk, flour and maybe dark chocolate, and even though you could certainly eat a slice of it as a meal, it’s not really a meal replacement for very many charities.

For that matter, corporate philanthropy in general isn’t a ‘meal replacement’ for charities either. In the United States less than 10 percent of all charitable giving comes from corporations.

That said, cause marketing still isn’t a substitute for corporate philanthropy, it’s an addition. Cause marketing can raise tons of money (and awareness). More, even, than a corporate foundation might give in a year. But a well-funded corporate foundation might mail checks to hundreds of charities a year.

Prudent and generous companies ought to offer both corporate philanthropy and cause marketing.