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Cause Marketing With Other Nonprofits

We’ve seen many times that not all cause marketing takes between a company and a cause. But after more than 950 posts it only just now occurs to me that I’ve never given much more than a passing mention to a kind of cause marketing that takes place between a nonprofit cause and another nonprofit.

There’s a certain irony to this because I spent the second part of my career at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) running accounts for four large nonprofit groups that worked to help North America’s children’s hospitals; the service groups Kiwanis and Key Club International, the veteran’s groups the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary, Log-a-Load for Kids, a subset of the trade group called the Forest Resources Association, and the fraternal benefit society called Foresters.

I was reminded of these sorts of relationships by a press release issued by the Illinois State Bar Association, which recently announced a goal to provide 1 million meals to needy Illinoisans. They’ll do this by hitting up bar association members and their law firms for donations of food and money. Food and money will be distributed to food banks across Illinois. 

In this two-part post, I’ll provide a little background on the nonprofit sponsors I worked with at CMNH. Tomorrow, the post will cover the nuts and bolts of working with other nonprofits in cause marketing.

Between them, my accounts were worth in excess of $5 million to CMNH, and a big chunk of underwriting dollars. And to be frank, while all of CMNH’s sponsors weren’t always a pleasure to work with, all of my nonprofit accounts were. I still count many friends from among those sponsors all these years later. We were all nonprofits and so we spoke the same language. Kiwanis and the American Legion are both in Indianapolis, which saved both money and time. And, I made a point of introducing everyone to everyone else, and was rewarded when they would pass ideas between each other without my mediation.

Each of these nonprofits had their own advantages. But they all shared one thing in common; they each had thousands of members. At the time, the American Legion and Auxiliary had 5 million members!  

Kiwanis was one of CMNH’s first sponsors brought on almost 30 years ago. Kiwanis International, and its larger cousin Rotary International, have literally made the world a better place. Kiwanis, in conjunction with UNICEF, has eliminated mental retardation due to iodine deficiency. Starting in 2010, Kiwanis teamed again with UNICEF to fight neonatal and maternal tetanus, which kills 100,000 babies a year. Kiwanis’ motto is ‘Serving the Children of the World,’ and so they were and are a splendid sponsor for CMNH.

At the time, the American Legion was my newest account, having been brought on less than a year before I took it over. Again, the fit made sense for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals because of the Legion’s dedication to youth issues. The Legion has long sponsored Boys State and Girls State, a summer leadership and citizenship program for high school students. And there are countless Major League Baseball players who first got noticed by scouts while playing in American Legion Baseball when they were 15 or 16 or 17. A former commander of the American Legion wrote the first draft of the GI Bill, which was sponsored by U.S. Senator Ernest McFarland. The Legion’s State and national conventions were pure and unapologetic Americana.

Log-a-Load for Kids was kind of a crazy hybrid when I had the account. State units of the American Pulpwood Association, now called the Forest Resources Association, especially in the Southern United States, would hold fundraisers on behalf children’s hospitals. CMNH helped nationalize and rationalize those efforts. I loved going to Log-a-Load for Kids events because they were really grassroots… pheasant hunts, bass tournaments, raffles, and the like… and because the people involved were so genuine and real.

As a fraternal benefit society and a nonprofit, Foresters was required by law to give some of its income to 501(c)(3) charities. At the time, Foresters wanted to sponsor high profile events that would generate a lot of positive publicity. And so we put together a campaign that put them and dozens of formerly-hospitalized kids in the White House to meet the President and to the Canadian Parliament to meet the Prime Minister. We figured out plenty of other ways for Foresters to spend its money with CMNH, too.


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