(Reprinted from the Massachusetts CPA Society newsletter “SumNews”.)
By Steve Dubin, PR Works
Last year, Americans generously donated
over $150 billion to charities. Eighty percent
of that total came from individuals, the
rest from companies and foundations.
While the total reflects an increase of 7.3 percent
over the prior year, the number of individual
donors is in fact shrinking, as is government
funding for many programs. This double
whammy is forcing charities to “sell” themselves.
Welcome to the increasingly popular
world of cause-related marketing.
Once you’ve been in business for a while, it’s
a good bet that at some point you may have
considered using cause-related marketing, or
that some local, regional or national organization
has approached you. Cause-related marketing
is an alliance between a company and
a selected charity through which the business
gives a few cents of the purchase price or
a share of the profits to a specified charity.
Among the better-known national companies
that have used cause-related marketing are
American Express, Coca-Cola and Ben &
A more cynical reader might ask the businessperson
involved in cause-related marketing:
Are you trying to sell products or services, or
are you trying to support a worthwhile cause?
The answer should be both.
Why, of all professions, would accounting
firms care? One is that community work
energizes your staff and allows them to connect
on a different level. Two, outreach
helps build and enhance your firm’s “brand.”
Three, nonprofit efforts can allow you to rub
elbows with potential clients. Most nonprofits
have well-connected board members who
could be your next star client. Four, all things
being equal, clients would prefer to work
with the good guys.
Consumers like these types of arrangements
between companies and charities because they
can help others while shopping for things
they would have purchased anyway. After all,
it makes you feel good to know you are helping
to save baby seals just by buying a certain
brand of toothpaste.
Some marketing experts argue that the product
and the cause should have some connection.
For example, for several years the
makers of Arthritis Pain Formula donated a
percentage of their profits to The Arthritis
Foundation. The charity even got to put its
name and logo on millions of bottles of the
over-the-counter painkiller. The charity got
lots of “free” publicity while the manufacturer
sold more medicine.
Last year, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade joined
forces with Yahoo! Inc. in “Lids for Kids,”
pledging ten cents for every yogurt lid mailed
in to linking schools to the Internet. As with
most such promotions, the sponsors set a
cap. With this campaign the cap was set at
Some promotions have little connection between
the cause and sponsoring company’s
product or service. It was American Express,
you may recall, that popularized the idea of
cause-related marketing with its 1983 project
to help restore the Statue of Liberty. Maybe
you even used your American Express card a
few extra times, so you could proudly boast
that you helped preserve the famed lady.
American Express also reaped immeasurable
positive publicity during its “Charge Against
Hunger” campaign, which ran the last three
holiday seasons with a $5 million annual cap
(Well, even for mega-companies, you have
to draw the line on charity somewhere!)
Some promotions border on good taste.
The Society for the Preservation of History
promises to pay “a portion of the proceeds”
from the sale of each $199 “Queen of Hearts”
Princess Diana Doll to the Princess of Wales
Memorial Fund. How many would you like?
If there’s a charity you’d like to support
through cause-related marketing — which
might help boost sales or polish your company’s
image at the same time, contact the organization’s
marketing or development director
and explore the possibilities. If done correctly,
the campaign can be a major win-win proposition
for both parties.
Well, gotta go. I think I’ll get my tires
changed at the place that supports the Olympic
Team and have a cup of coffee at the
place that buys books for inner city schools.
Steve Dubin is president of PR Works, which is
based in Kingston, MA, and serves clients nationally.
The firm offers a wide expanse of public
relations services including strategic PR planning,
news releases, feature story development,
media placement, media coaching, newsletters,
case studies, grand opening management,
product and service launch management, press
tours, and press conference management.
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