What is Cause-related Marketing?

Kuku Afanga • Jun 16, 2022
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Cause-related marketing is a strategic effort by a corporation to raise awareness and funds for a cause. Most cause-related marketing strategies involve a partnership between a corporation and a nonprofit organization. Through this partnership, the corporation can donate a portion of its sales to the nonprofit’s programs.  

A great example of a successful cause marketing strategy was the collaboration between American Express and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation in 1983. The goal of the partnership was to raise funds for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. The company donated a cent to the foundation each time an American Express customer used their card. 

The campaign raised $1.7 million, and usage of American Express cards increased by 27%. The partnership proved equally beneficial to both the company and the nonprofit and showed that customers are more likely to patronize brands that support social causes. Since then, there have been several partnerships between corporations and nonprofit organizations.

This article discusses why cause-related marketing strategies and campaigns benefit corporations and nonprofit organizations. It also includes examples of corporate partnerships that may inspire nonprofit professionals.

Benefits of Cause-related Marketing for Nonprofits

1. Reach a wider audience

The right corporate partnership can help raise much-needed awareness for nonprofits. In most corporate partnerships, the corporation’s client base is much larger than the nonprofit’s audience. By tapping into the corporation’s network and audience, the nonprofit can extend its reach and increase awareness about its programs and impact. 

Since awareness tends to increase during cause-related marketing campaigns, nonprofits must ensure their branding, marketing collaterals, and digital presence are well-optimized to showcase their story and impact new audiences, supporters, and prospects. You want your website and social media profiles to give potential donors a great first impression. 

2. Boost Fundraising Revenue 

When nonprofits collaborate with corporations, they may experience a significant increase in fundraising revenue. Depending on the nature of the partnership, the nonprofit might receive a portion of each sale made during the period of the campaign. They could also acquire new donors due to increased awareness about their impact. That said, nonprofits must ensure the corporations’ values and history align with their mission and community.  

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3. Attract Volunteers

Cause-related marketing campaigns are also a fantastic opportunity for nonprofits to attract volunteers. Sometimes, corporations will get their team members to commit time to the nonprofit they are partnering with. Additionally, since there’s increased awareness about the nonprofit, new supporters might choose to give their time and make other in-kind donations to the organization. 

Benefits of Cause-related Marketing for Corporations

1. Meet corporate social responsibility goals

Cause-related marketing strategies can help corporations meet their corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals and targets. This can go a long way to improving customer loyalty, engagement, and retention, as well as boosting sales. However, the corporation needs to partner with a nonprofit organization that aligns with its values and serves its customers’ communities. 

2. Improve brand recognition 

Cause-related marketing strategies can help enhance a corporation’s image in the public’s eye. The company can become known for its community contributions, which could motivate more consumers to use the corporation’s products and services. By partnering with nonprofit organizations to support causes impacting their customers’ communities, corporations can raise their brand image and profile in their target markets.  

3. Build employee engagement 

Nowadays, job applicants consider more than just salary levels when thinking about the type of companies they want to work for. Amongst other things, a corporation’s commitment to social good is an important consideration many people make when applying for jobs. Similarly, employees want to know that they are working for a corporation that shares the values they do.

By partnering with nonprofit organizations, corporations can show employees they are willing to put their money where their mouth is and support the communities in need. Through a volunteer grant program, they can also use these campaigns to get the employees involved in community outreaches. This can boost employee engagement and help the company retain its talents.

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Examples of Cause-related Marketing Campaigns 

1. The Advancement Project National Office and Ben & Jerry’s 

In 2019, Ben & Jerry’s partnered with the Advancement Project National Office, a nonprofit organization advocating for voting rights and racial justice. The collaboration focused on raising awareness about the need to reform the criminal justice system in the United States. As part of the campaign, the ice cream company released a new and limited flavor of ice cream called Justice ReMix’d. 

A portion of the proceeds from the sales of the new flavor was donated to the nonprofit. This cause-related marketing campaign helped raise awareness about issues with the criminal justice system, the nonprofit’s work, and Ben & Jerry’s commitment to social good. It was so successful that, due to popular demand, it returned to the company’s catalog the following year, just in time for the 2020 United States presidential election.

2. VisionSpring and Warby Parker

Warby Parker, an American prescription glasses retailer, partners with VisionSpring to create a Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. VisionSpring’s mission is to provide affordable eye care to individuals earning less than $4 per day. Through this partnership, they could secure free eyeglasses for 50% of VisionSpring’s beneficiaries. 

The partnership with VisionSpring is one of many ways Warby Parker looks to contribute to nonprofit organizations globally. This partnership also makes it possible for Warby Parker’s customers to pay it forward; for each pair of glasses they buy, they donate another pair to an individual from a low-income community.

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These aforementioned examples highlight ways corporations can partner with nonprofits to execute cause-related marketing strategies. Such campaigns, programs, and partnerships will help raise awareness about the nonprofit’s cause, mission, story, and impact while boosting the corporation’s brand identity and image, amongst other benefits.

Cause-related marketing is an effective collaborative tool that promises benefits to corporations and nonprofits. By keeping the focus on causes and communities in need, this kind of marketing endears potential customers and employees. As a fundraiser, you can consider proposing this strategy to corporations you would like to partner with.

Additional Resources on Cause-related Marketing

Check out these articles for more tips on cause-related marketing: