The Cause Marketing Jackpot

By Amy Kubie in Guest Blogger
June 12, 2015 04:00

This week's post features guest blogger, Danika Trosen, who is the Major Gifts Officer and Fundraising Events Director for the American Red Cross in the Minneapolis-St Paul area. With significant experience in establishing sustainable growth strategies for both brands and nonprofits, she emphasizes how a brand's purpose is vital to its success, and how technology can substantially improve the way brands interact with nonprofits.

As both the number and quality of interactions between brands and nonprofits continue to increase dramatically, purpose has become one of the keys to driving engagement and growth. But purpose without vision, a plan, or the proper alignment of the actions a brand takes to support that purpose often leads to wasted money and time.

Corporate social responsibility goes beyond just embracing a cause or raising money; it is really about translating purpose into meaningful behaviors. One way companies will compete in the future -- and most likely stand apart from their competition -- will involve implementing unique "purpose-driven action plans" for their consumers and employees. A strong action plan clears the pathway to engaging those key stakeholders not only through the giving opportunity, but also through the hands-on participation that follows from it.  For the millennial generation, this action plan strategy is already gaining momentum.

One trend in CSR shows that sponsorship support for nonprofit fundraising is coming from marketing budgets more often than ever before; less and less are the nonprofits asking a company's foundation to write a check in support of an event. But there is still a piece of the puzzle missing: a way for guests to engage with the sponsor in order to do good.  By aligning   (1) the right corporate sponsor with their target demographic, (2) a guest interactive platform with the right smart technology and, (3) a reason to engage or call to action, a brand with purpose can hit 'the cause marketing jackpot.'

Perhaps just as important as having a purpose is the equation that balances corporate purpose with the values of its stakeholders. People's individual values, which are vital to the success of an organization, are just as, if not more, important than those of the person who signs the paychecks.  Corporate websites may speak to their purpose aligning with that of their employees and customers, but I would argue that a large majority of corporations have little understanding of the values which drive their stakeholders' philanthropic urges. Along that same line, how many consumers could tell you what the purposes of their top 5 brands are?

With the rise of virtual offices, dispersed campuses, and flexible work schedules, stakeholder campaigns -- specifically the ones oriented towards employee giving -- have become increasingly difficult for brands to manage.  Additionally, keeping employees actively engaged in the philanthropic work of a company poses a logistical challenge for many.  Companies are searching for ways in which they can engage globally with their employees, often all on one day (not to be confused with the 'Mother's Day' giving model).  Not only would it present a potential cost-effective engagement opportunity, but it also allows the company to embrace a "you choose how we give back" model.  At the end of the day, (1) corporate social responsibility has been met, and (2) employee loyalty and moral has increased.  This new era of employee giving is on the brink of emerging.

Nonprofits without a national footprint struggle to keep their fundraising costs down. In the years I have worked in fundraiser event planning, this cost continues to be significant. But someone with my job (working to engage corporate support, keep the cost of fundraising down, and increase the ROI year after year) can sense that change is coming, and that it's going to be big. For nonprofits, the rising cost of fundraising means there is an opportunity for turning what used to be mountains into molehills. And the answer lies in purpose-driven brands using the resources at their disposal, stepping up and engaging stakeholders in taking an active role in directing where corporate giving should go.

The in/PACT team thanks Danika for her thoughtful and inspiring article. We share her excitement for what lies in store for the world of cause marketing and corporate philanthropy!