Cause Marketing: Marrying Business Efforts with Nonprofit Missions

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

A “marriage”? Nonprofit and business? Isn’t that like a Hatfield meeting a McCoy at the alter? Doesn’t business damage or destroy and nonprofits clean up or repair? Smart executives know that customers and contributors expect more from both. We expect business to be good stewards of the resources they use and also a contributing member of our community. Business is responding to this demand through the concept of Cause-Marketing. 

The origins are said to go back to Marriott and March of Dimes in the mid 70s, but began before that, as most things do, at a smaller level, like the first pizza parlor that posted photos of the local school sports team or fire department. It still operates that way today, with large and small businesses working with nonprofits. It has developed into $1.68 billion in business spending in 2011 and is predicted to grow to $1.73 billion in 2012. IEG, LLC., whose figures appear here, titles a feature article “More Nonprofits Earning Majority of Revenue from Sponsorship”. 

How do you go about approaching this area of fund generation? As in any good marriage, it goes beyond getting a contribution. Major corporations appreciate the added awareness of developing a significant presence in a community through supporting a good cause. And, so should you.   

  1. Make cause-marketing a part of your strategic plan. If it relates to your mission, it fits your program and better relates to the business you select to work with. 
  2.  Include prospective businesses in your communications system. They need thorough information to present your organization’s information to their customers, managers and employees. 
  3. Provide additional ways for customers and employees to contribute. Tie your story to their interests and let them know they can contribute directly.  
  4. If you are the Executive Director, make it your priority to find common ground with the business community. Or, keep the ED involved and able to talk with upper management.  
  5. Match the scale and scope of your organization with the businesses you are trying to reach. Then, go beyond that to your Vision of where you want to be?  
  6. Show your appreciation for their effort.  

Forbes contributor Timothy Ogden cautions about cause marketing backfiring due to mismatching. A great relationship can last a lifetime as many major corporations have developed years of support to specific nonprofits.

 Author:  Dan Charobee, Executive Coaches of Orange County,