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One Reason Why So Much Cause Marketing Goes to Children's Causes

Ever wonder why so much cause marketing ends up supporting children's causes, even when the sponsor's business has little to do with children? Part of the answer lies with a topic of psychology called generativity.

People who score high on tests of generativity are much more generous donors to causes and charities than those who score low. Generativity means, “the concern in establishing and guiding the next generation,” according to an academic named Erik Erikson, who coined the term and gave it that definition in a 1963 paper.

Knowing how people express their level of generativity could certainly help cause marketers better target their campaigns and audiences.

Dan McAdams and Ed de St. Aubin theorized that cultural demand and inner desire are the two ultimate motivations behind generativity, promoting a conscious concern for the generations behind them. These motivations are supported by a belief in the goodness of the human species. Combined they generate a commitment to generativity, which can result in generative action. Finally, the meaning of generativity for an individual is determined by the script or narrative that the tell about providing for the next generation.

The last part is the cool part for cause marketers. Scholars have built several tests of generativity over the years, but they weren’t always something you or I could easily deploy.

For instance, some 11 acts show a high correlation with the Loyola Generativity Scale, including: ‘told someone about my own childhood’ (.43 correlation), and ‘sewed or mended a garment or other object’ (.30 correlation). As a reminder for people as far away from college statistics as me, 1 would mean complete correlation and -1 would mean a complete negative correlation. Correlation, of course, is not causation.

Wouldn’t it be fun to ask your constituents today about how often they have ‘sewed or mended a garment?’

Instead, McAdams and de St. Aubin’s work provides a more workable framework for determining generativity: ask people questions like “tell me about a peak experience?” Or, “tell me about the all time low point in your life?” If the stories come back with themes of generativity like children improving, then bingo, that person has high levels of generativity. And, I would argue, would be more likely to support a cause marketing campaign.

If not, well then they’re a scrooge and they should be shunned. 

Is it any wonder that children’s charities are almost the universal cause?

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