Let’s Finally Banish the ‘Portion of the Proceeds’ Language from All Cause Marketing

Back in October 2012 the office of New York State’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released five “best practices” for conducting cause marketing in the Empire State. They accord to a remarkable degree what I’ve been telling clients for more than 10 years now and have written in the Cause Marketing blog since my first posts almost six and half years ago.

But a local cause marketing promotion reinforced for me the fact that every year a new generation of marketers arises that, as the story in the Bible puts it, “knew not Joseph.” That is, they haven’t gotten the message yet about the right ways to do cause marketing.

Here’s the AG’s guidelines as published:
  1. Clearly Describe the Promotion.
  2. Allow Consumers to Easily Determine Donation Amount.
  3. Be Transparent About What Is Not Apparent.
  4. Ensure Transparency in Social Media.
  5. Tell the Public How Much Was Raised.
Let’s be clear that the AG’s guidelines don’t currently have the force of law. But if they did, any cause marketing offer that didn’t follow the law would be in violation, even if your cause marketing promotion wasn’t aimed at New York State residents. That’s because many States view even a press release on the Internet as attempt to solicit in their State since the notice could be read by someone with an Internet connection in their jurisdiction.

In other words, should these guidelines become law, any notice on the Internet that sounds like a solicitation to participate could bring your campaign under New York State jurisdiction, whether that was your intent or not. Bear in mind, however, that I’m not a lawyer and I'm not offering any legal advice here.

What follows is a press release from a cause marketing effort at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in Salt Lake County, Utah, where I live.
“For the first time since Mineral Basin opened in 2000, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort is offering a guided backcountry cat skiing experience, called Snowcat Skiing for Nature. Proceeds benefit the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation...

“Cat Skiing for Nature participants must be expert skiers in physical condition for high altitude exertion in variable snow and weather conditions...

“Proceeds from the Snowbird Cat Skiing for Nature program benefit the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation and the Wasatch Water Legacy Partnership, a partnership working to improve the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and Salt Lake City’s drinking water.”
Half-day tours cost $300 per person.

Now, as I say, this has personal relevance. I live about 10 miles down the canyon from Snowbird. The water from snowmelt in the canyon serves me and my family. So I’m happy to see conservation efforts and watershed improvements so that clean water continues to flow. Without the snow that falls in Utah’s mountains, the state would be too arid to support the 2.8 million people who already live here.

I can already hear the complaints from Snowbird about changing the language; “But we can’t be more specific than ‘portion of the proceeds’ because we don’t know how much we’ll make or how many people will take us up on the offer.”

Fine, then make the donation to the Wasatch Water Legacy Partnership the first line of expense and say this instead in the press release: “Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort will donate a minimum of $5,000 to the Wasatch Water Legacy Partnership and as much as $15,000 depending on participation. The Resort will publicize the final donation at the end of the season.”

(The picture at the left looks west from Snowbird into the Salt Lake Valley. Little Cottonwood Canyon, where Snowbird is located, is the only glacially-carved canyon in Utah, hence the giant bowl shape. The photo is from my nephew, William Ashman). 

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