Where is All the Cause Marketing with Faith-Based Nonprofits?

In Feb 2013, I got an email from a remarkable student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who had an intriguing question: why isn’t there more cause marketing between sponsors and faith-based nonprofits?

It’s a question I’d wondered about myself so it was fun to be asked to think about. Marshele Carter Waddell and I talked about it several times in the intervening months. Marshele is a grad student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC, the executive director of a faith-based nonprofit, the author of four books, the 28-Year Wife of a U.S. Navy SEAL Commander (ret) and mother of a U.S. Marine Infantry Officer who received the “Bronze Star for Valor for things sons don't tell their mothers,” as she puts it.

With her permission I publish the conclusion of her analysis which is one section in a report of a larger project called, "Corporations, Creeds and Cause-related Marketing Campaigns: Defining the Graces that Save and the Sins that Sink Corporate Social Responsibility Endeavors with Faith-based, Nonprofit Organizations."
Based on the six interviews, it appears that, shoulder to shoulder, faith-based nonprofit organizations and faith-neutral nonprofit organizations do not enjoy the same windows of opportunities for cause-related marketing endeavors. Two nonprofit leaders, an author, two marketing and development agency directors and a for-profit vice president agreed that, in general, faith-based nonprofit organizations are at a disadvantage from the starting blocks to the finish line in pursuing cause-related marketing partnerships. 

However there are considerations and steps that faith-based nonprofit organizations can take as they seek to more effectively compete for cause-related marketing partnerships. The following suggestions and advice emerged in the interviews:
Both of the marketing agency directors who were interviewed provided insights into which faith-based nonprofit organizations should consider including cause-related marketing campaigns in their overall marketing strategy. The investment of staff, budget and other resources into pursuing cause-related partnerships is worthwhile if the faith-based nonprofit organization has a strong cause that both supersedes religion and also intersects with widely held religious/spiritual values. Headline issues and programs that address a national, cross-generational, cross-cultural, widespread problem warrant cause-related marketing consideration. Examples of such causes include caring for returning veterans and their families, ending homelessness, eliminating sex trafficking and encouraging responsible fatherhood.  

The gap in scholarly literature and the disconnect in the national dialogue on the subject of faith-based nonprofit organizations in cause-related marketing partnerships, both confirmed in this research, present an opportunity not only for further research but for educating both camps, the for-profit and nonprofit realms, about the opportunities and challenges of such partnerships. Corporations have room for improvement in creating, communicating and making available their marketing partnership criteria, specifically in regards to their willingness to support and to partner with faith-based nonprofit organizations. Faith-based organizations must refine their efforts by
This shift will inevitably require progressive, visionary leadership on the part of the faith-based nonprofit organizations and the willingness of corporations to recognize the fiscal value of relationship with those of the faith community.

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