Many businesses realize that affiliating themselves with charities are not only a great opportunity to get involved in giving back, but it is also a powerful marketing tactic. The business gets to develop a larger network and it helps others at the same time. Consumers like to associate themselves with businesses that support causes – while they may not have the means to donate regularly to a charity (even if they wanted to) it makes people feel good that they are giving back while purchasing something they need.
This idea is nothing new – the idea of companies “giving back” goes by many different names and uses a variety of marketing slogans: Social Corporate Responsibility (CSR) and “Voting With Your Dollars” are the two I tend to hear most often. Simply put, CSR refers to the idea of participating in initiatives that benefit others.
As a marketing or brand manager, it can be confusing and overwhelming to decide what charity to align with. Once you have done your research and found charities that are worthwhile, transparent with where the donations they receive go and have similar views and visions, how do you pick one? When I do this with clients, I tend to choose charities that I am personally drawn to, and also ones that seem to be close to my consumers’ hearts. It is more important that the chosen charity would be one that my current and target consumers would support, than if I would support it with my own money.
The next criteria to choosing a charity from a brand standpoint, is one that gives the brand a broader reach than they would get on their own, and brings a meaningful and engaged community to your brand. This is a win-win for both you and your charity. Charities, like brands, are interested in building their membership base. Partnering with a charity not only brings their community to you, but it also allows the charity to get their message out to all the people your brand interacts with, with the goal being to bring new members to support them, as well as your brand. Cause marketing is actually no different than any other partnership you might form between your brand a for-profit business. You are looking for another like-minded company, where by coming together, you both will have the opportunity to amplify your messaging with a shared voice.
As you build up the relationship between your brand and the charity you have aligned with, you will want to get in front of the employees that work with the charity and explain your product or services to them. Most charities also have people that follow the charity or support the charity in some way. These people are all target consumers by indirect association. As the relationship deepens, you can look to these people to become brand ambassadors, as their charity will also benefit from your brands success. Perhaps you are donating a specific portion of your brand’s sales to the charity- you can invite the charity to help get the message out that they will be the beneficiaries of sales during a specified time period.
While you are working on a charity marketing initiative, it is important to keep your motives clear. I would suggest that the end goal is always helping people, making a difference.