Cause Marketing for Nonprofits: Partner for Purpose, Passion, and Profits

In the twenty-five years since American Express started supporting local causes in San Francisco by encouraging its members to charge charitable donations to their credit cards, cause marketing has become an essential element of a successful business plan, says Carol Cone, chair and founder of Cone, Inc., a cause marketing consulting firm.

In Cause Marketing for Nonprofits: Partner for Purpose, Passion, and Profits, part of the Association of Fundraising Professionals' Fund Development Series, Cone's friend and colleague, Jocelyne Daw, aims to show nonprofit executives and trustees, development professionals, and other nonprofit practitioners how they can use this trend to the mutual benefit of themselves and their corporate partners.

Daw, an acclaimed cause-marketing consultant in Canada, is vice president of enterprises at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary and also serves as national executive director for the Canadian Parks Partnership, which has raised money, awareness, and civic engagement for Canada's national parks and historic sites through alliances with several major corporations.

Her book is a comprehensive treatment of cause marketing, which she defines as a mutually beneficial collaboration between a corporation and a nonprofit in which their respective assets are combined to create shareholder and social value; connect with a range of constituents (be they consumers, employees, or suppliers); and communicate the shared values of both organizations.

The book includes many case studies, and readers will recognize several of the nonprofits profiled. In each, Daw briefly describes how the marketing campaign unfolded, then interviews staff responsible for implementing the campaign about the challenges and successes associated with the effort. While most readers will enjoy the individual studies, be aware that many concern organizations with a national or wide-reaching scope; indeed, many concern breast cancer-related campaigns, which is not surprising given the author's interest in health causes.

Similarly, while Daw offers much practical advice and many questions that nonprofits need to ask themselves, the novice may find some of the terminology she uses to be a little esoteric or off-putting. For instance, she asserts that nonprofits need to be more focused on measurement and trots out a number of B school terms — "target market," "ROI," "response rate," and so on — that may not be familiar to the uninitiated.

Those quibbles aside, readers would be wise to keep their eye on the big picture. With corporations increasingly adopting a "strategic" approach to philanthropy and gravitating to social causes — though not necessarily charities — that boost their profitability and stature in the community, cause marketing is here to stay. And, as a successful consultant in the field, Daw is an enthusiastic cheerleader for its potential. Still, she's quick to point out that most nonprofits will have to become more sophisticated and business savvy if they are to grab the brass ring of an effective cause-marketing alliance. As Kevin Martinez, director of community affairs for Home Depot, puts it: "I am a firm believer that cause marketing is not an entry level position for any new partnership you have. A nonprofit partner has to earn it." Reading Cause Marketing for Nonprofits is a good place to start.

Sandy Pon
Reference Librarian/Technology Specialist
Foundation Center
Atlanta, Georgia