5 Steps to Selecting a Cause Marketing Partner

cause-marketing2Quick: Can you think of any successful company today that’s not involved in some sort of cause marketing?

There are a few. But as an active participant in the marketing and communication community, you probably know that cause marketing can no longer be viewed as a peripheral “extra” strategy.

With US$1.84 billion in cause-related spending projected in 2014 in North America alone (according to IEG), it’s clear that consumers’ cause-consciousness is proving reliably profitable.

But choosing the wrong cause marketing partner can have negative results—or worse, can cause damage to your brand. Here’s how to choose the perfect cause marketing partner to create the benefits you want.

1.  Self-assess without mercy

A critical review of your own company’s abilities and assets is crucial and should go far beyond your existing vision and mission statements, annual reports and press releases. You need to find out what Amazon founder Jeff Bezos describes as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Targeted surveys can bring forth some very interesting results about how your company is viewed.

Once you’ve seen the unvarnished truth about your brand, flesh out your reasons for wanting a partnership. Ask yourself:

  • Is there something about your brand you wish to change?
  • What markets are you looking to open up?
  • Are you introducing a new product, looking to increase employee morale, or attract media coverage?
  • Does your company have the motivation, ability, personnel, budget and leadership to undertake a long-term partnership?

2.  Specify what you’re bringing to the table

Having your company’s assets well-defined and knowing what you can offer in a cause marketing partnership will go a long way toward approaching potential nonprofit, educational or government organizations. Develop a detailed list of everything you can offer, asking:

  • Do we have strong brand recognition?
  • What financial resources can we commit?
  • Are our executives and key stakeholders committed to the success of this partnership?
  • Can we offer management or employees as advisers or board members of partner organizations?
  • Can our PR or ad agency be used for creative or publicity services?
  • And most important: Do we have a sincere desire and commitment to do something good for our community and the world?

3. Research closely aligned partner candidates

Now that you know yourself a little better, zero in on a partner whose brand aligns with yours. Several obvious choices may present themselves. However, it’s important to conduct deeper research into each potential partner’s ability to provide your company with the needed outcome, and to watch out for areas of controversy.

If a specific area of interest (rather than an organization) has risen to the top of your company’s wish list, you can find well-vetted nonprofit partner possibilities at:

Case in Point: Hot Wheels’ “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign

hotwheelsToo many drivers believe it is safe to drive after only a drink or two, while according to medical experts even one drink can impair your senses. To address this important public safety issue, Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai teamed up with Mattel Toys India to produce a highly effective “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign.

The campaign partnered with The Little Door pub and Party Club Drivers driver service. When drivers arriving at the pub handed over their car keys to the valet, the valets attached specially designed key chains featuring a damaged Hot Wheels car (depicting a car that’s recently been in an accident) with a message that read, “Even a small drink is enough.” The phone numbers of the Party Club Drivers were also attached. When the car owners were handed their keys with the attached Hot Wheels key chain, the visual impact was powerful. The reaction from drivers was positive. Many decided to call the driver service to drive them home and some called friends and family to pick them up.

4. Meet your partner’s objectives

A cause marketing partnership is only as successful as its ability to meet both partners’ objectives, so it’s crucial to understand what your new partner wants and how this partnership is going to deliver it. Your partner may seek:

  • Increased funding.
  • Pro bono services.
  • New business partners and strategic relationships.
  • Experienced volunteers or loaned management.
  • In-kind donations of equipment or furniture.
  • Increased media coverage.

If your company works hard to meet their objectives, they will very likely work hard to meet yours.

5. Maintain the glow

As Kim Gordon wrote in recent article for Entrepreneur, “Cause marketing works best when you and your employees feel great about the help you’re providing to a nonprofit group,” and she’s right. When your company stays focused on the greater good, everyone involved will begin to radiate confidence and a sense of accomplishment of having done something really well that serves others in need: The greater good.

The more your company remains focused on having all partners and stakeholders benefiting from this project or campaign, the brighter your company will glow.

Bruce Burtch

Bruce Burtch

Bruce Burtch has been helping for-profit and nonprofit organizations develop win-win partnerships to maximize their strategic marketing and fund development success for more than 35 years. He is an internationally recognized cause marketing and cross-sector partnership expert and author of Win-Win for the Greater Good, available at a 20% discount to IABC members. To receive the discount, go to Create Space and enter JHHVKMHW during checkout.


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