Leveraging Cause Awareness in Nonprofit Marketing Plans

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For charitable organizations, creating partnerships with traditional, for-profit businesses can be a great way to grow within a community. Engaging in cause-related marketing activities through a partnership can be advantageous to both the nonprofit and the company.

What is Cause-Related Marketing?

Cause-related marketing is a marketing and communications collaboration between nonprofit and for-profit entities that promotes business sales and charitable causes. Businesses are often open to these partnerships as they help to show corporate responsibility to social causes.

In 1983, American Express first coined the term as part of a fundraising campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty. Every time someone used their AmEx card for a charge, American Express gave one cent to the project. The restoration campaign ultimately generated over $1.7 million, and the use of AmEx rose 27%.  It was a win-win situation that others quickly gravitated to!

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Examples of a Cause-Related Marketing Campaign

Cause-related marketing campaigns can be broad in scope (such as marriage equality) or very narrow (such as eliminating single-use plastic bottles). You’ve likely seen cause-awareness promotional materials from your favorite stores or brands. For example, if you’ve ever been asked to “round up” a purchase transaction with a donation to a specific cause, you’ve participated in some variety of nonprofit cause marketing efforts.

Chef Josh Scherer, the host of the Mythical Kitchen channel on YouTube, recently participated in a cause-related marketing campaign to help the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for a hospitable work environment for restaurant employees. The partnership included an online fundraiser to assist independent restaurants and their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The #LeftoversChallenge cause awareness campaign asked audiences to create meals from leftovers and post them to social media platforms. Donation links were incorporated into Mythical Kitchen videos, and subscribers were encouraged to donate. This is a great example of how to leverage your YouTube and social media channels in your outreach efforts, as well.

Why are Cause-Related Marketing Projects Attractive to Businesses?

Cause-related marketing projects are highly advantageous for businesses who are interested in aligning themselves with socially responsible causes. Consumers who are interested in those causes are often more inclined to support companies that share their values.

By collaborating with a relevant nonprofit organization on a cause-related marketing campaign, a business can potentially increase sales, improve their brand’s reputation, and differentiate themselves in the marketplace. These are all desirable propositions!

Three people in business suits having a conversation.


How Can Cause-Related Marketing Projects Help Nonprofits?

Nonprofits can potentially benefit from cause-related marketing projects due to the increased donations, brand awareness, and public exposure that partnering with a successful business can bring. The attention that a cause awareness campaign can bring can help to bolster attendance at fundraisers, attract new volunteers, secure media attention, recruit board members, and help to win competitive grants and corporate sponsorships.

Nonprofits Find Cause Related Marketing Business Partners

How Can Nonprofits Find Cause-Related Marketing Business Partners?

First, you’ll want to identify businesses whose values are compatible with your nonprofit’s mission. This kind of outreach can be done through professional networking opportunities, contacting business and civic organizations in your area, and looking at websites.

Before contacting a business with your ideas for a cause-related marketing campaign, educate yourself a bit about how for-profit businesses operate. Unlike working with giving officers and grants administrators at foundations and corporate philanthropic divisions,  cause-related marketing projects will involve working with a business’ marketing and communications team. Understanding the “MAR-COM” needs of the companies being targeted (increase sales, improve reputation, product differentiation) and how your nonprofit can help will go a long way in ensuring your cause awareness project is seriously considered.

How to Pitch a Cause-Related Marketing Proposal to a Business

Once you’ve connected with a business’ marketing and communications office, you’ll need to prepare yourself for “making the pitch” about why and how your organization can help the company achieve its sales and marketing goals. As part of your presentation, you’ll want to highlight how your nonprofit can:

  • Complement their business values
  • Boost sales and enhance visibility
  • Be an active contributor to a partnership
  • Strengthen brand reputation in the community

Once you’ve made your pitch and the business green lights the cause awareness project, both sides will need to discuss expectations and responsibilities. Having these conversations early on will help both sides to understand what is required to make the partnership flourish.

Pitch A Cause Related Marketing Proposal To A Business

Maintaining a Cause-Related Marketing Partnership

Once your cause awareness project has launched, be sure to schedule routine check-ins so you can connect. Businesses will want to see that the partnership results in a positive return on investment (ROI). You’ll want to report the outcomes data for events, social media, donations, etc., or through stories that demonstrate a positive impact.

Also, be sure to thank the business for enhancing your programs! Make sure you display the business’ logo on your website and mention the partnership in your email newsletters, social media, and donor communications. Remember, you can never say “thank you!” too many times.

Nonprofit startups are created to solve critical community issues, and cause-related marketing programs can help. Consider adding this form of outreach into your strategic plan and yearly operations calendar. It’s a sure-fire way to increase your organization’s visibility and draw more people to support your endeavors.

Want more information?

If you’d like additional educational materials for managing your nonprofit startup, be sure to look over the online resources we’ve selectively curated for you. Whether it’s learning project management skills, creating your first Board, keeping Board members engaged, or expanding programs, BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions is here to help. Learn more about us and how we can help you turn your entrepreneurial ideas into a nonprofit reality!