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Raising Awareness With Cause Marketing

Resource Center - Foundation

(Nov. 29, 2011) Done well, a cause-marketing issue promotion campaign can heighten awareness of your cause in the broader community, well beyond your current base of supporters.

In this day and age, for-profit companies of all sizes are becoming more and more sophisticated at reaching audiences. In their aim to stand out among the competition, they are also looking to connect with consumers in a way that shows they are benefiting the community. A cause-marketing issue promotion campaign can plant seeds of awareness with people who previously never had contact with your organization or cause.

According to Jocelyne Daw, author of Cause Marketing for Nonprofits, cause-marketing issue promotions can be developed at the local, regional or national level and can relate to any type of issue. The program is simple—a company and nonprofit collaborate to create a communications program around a societal issue. The nonprofit provides the information and the company develops promotional vehicles to get the word out.

“Although most companies will include a donation to support the cause, the main contribution from the corporation is in building awareness and in the call to action,” Daw explains. “It can be difficult for nonprofit organizations to put a dollar value on the awareness contribution.”

Examples of cause-marketing issue campaigns include the “Save Lids to Save Lives” Breast Cancer awareness promotion from Susan G. Komen Foundation and Yoplait and the “Spoonful of Stories” literacy promotion by Cheerios (General Mills) and the nonprofit First Book.

The biggest concern is fostering a sincere and genuine promotion of the issue. The company’s values must be properly aligned with the cause and is committed to advancing the issue.

Some Golden Rules

In a recent blog post on her website, Daw lists seven golden rules that can help strengthen a cause-marketing effort.

Articulate your brand: A well-defined and clearly articulated brand can help your organization find links to potential partners, will stir an emotional response and reflect a company’s own passion and values, and more effectively reach the audience.

Build from the inside out:  Before seeking partners prepare on the inside.  This includes understanding what assets you and cannot bring to the table, putting the processes and procedures in place for success and formalizing internal buy-in and support.

Align for success: Seek partners with not only shared value, but also shared values—as well  as strong brand and “DNA alignment”.  The stronger the alignment and fit, the stronger the cause marketing campaign and relationships – plain and simple.

Innovate with good governance: Innovation combined with good governance is essential.  Once you agree to move forward, put clear, but simple agreements in place, and develop plans that succinctly lay out who does what, when, how and outline dispute mechanism. One thing that can’t be written into an agreement is an understanding of each other’s cultural and organizational differences and practicing mutual respect.  Both are vital to governing a strong and long-lasting relationship.

Execute with rigor: Securing a cause partner is only the beginning.  Careful execution and follow up is essential. A few guiding principles: firstly under promise and over deliver; next communicate, communicate, communicate; and finally manage the relationship, not just cause program. Your success in execution will determine whether your partner is a one-off or a long-term one.

Celebrate success: Success should be celebrated.  Bring partners together to recognize the great work being done, to communicate to internal and external audiences and to build pride. Having measurements and expected outcomes in place provides success milestones and sets the stage for future years.

Learn and evolve: Wrap-up meetings can uncover key lessons that can be used to help you evolve and grow together.  Asking “What did we learn?  How do improve what we’re doing? What’s next?” will keep the partnership and cause marketing initiative fresh and relevant.

Learn more by reading AFP’s latest Hot Topic resource on Cause-related Marketing/Sponsorships, housed on the AFP website under the Resource Center tab. Also, visit the AFP Bookstore to pick up Daw’s book on cause marketing and other great titles.

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