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Five Cause Marketing Questions Sponsors Need an Answer to From Potential Nonprofit Partners

Yesterday’s post ‘Five Questions Nonprofit Marketers Need Answers to From Potential Sponsors’ was inspired by a monthly column in Smart Money. Each month the personal finance magazine publishes a feature called “10 Things X Won’t Tell You.” The intent of the feature is to show that your interests and those of your bank, say, don’t always align.

In the interest of better alignment between causes and sponsors, here are five questions that a potential sponsor better have a satisfying answer to before engaging in a cause marketing relationship with a charity.
  1. Am I Just a Paycheck to You? I had a conversation the other day with a potential cause marketing sponsor scouting for a cause. Their first goal was to generate money for their putative partner. Of course, they also had several business and marketing goals as well. Sophisticated sponsors know that most causes expect money from cause marketing. Fair enough. But if that represents most of a cause’s motivation a sponsor ought to know that. 
  2. Can We Work a Deal Where I Get a Look at Your Supporter’s List? As I’ve written in the past, while the U.S. has more than 1.5 million 501(c)(3) nonprofits, only a tiny fraction have a really good list. But for those that do, if the sponsor could come up with the right product and promotion mix, it could be a win-win for the cause and the sponsor.
  3. Can We Date Before We Marry? Eric Ries, guru and author of the best-seller the ‘Lean  Startup’ makes a mint telling new and established companies alike to figure out cheaper ways to test the market potential of products and services. He told Quicken, for instance, to put together a kind ‘sell sheet’ of a potential product with its features and benefits and see how the market reacted, rather than to build the software and hope people bought it. The Internet enables a low-risk approach like this for would-be cause marketing partners, too. 
  4. Where Will I Fit in Your Sponsor Pecking Order? The biggest, most prominent cause marketing charities have long sponsor lists. And the companies at the top of the list get more perks and bennies than the ones at the bottom of the list. This can be motivating. Or dispiriting. Sponsors need to get comfortable with where they’re likely to fit.
  5. I Know You Have Your Favorite Cause Marketing Methods. Will You Cook Up Something Special Just for Me? Savvy causes have certain schemas, or blueprints that they tend to follow depending on the sponsor. Any retailer that gets good foot traffic, for instance, is a possibility for a paper icon effort. But a wholesale distributor or a tire warehouse or a flower grower is a different can of beans. And so you’ll want to know if the cause is capable of coming up with something from outside their usual bag of tricks.


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