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It’s For a Good Cause: A Beginner’s Guide to Cause Marketing

So, you want to partner up with a non-profit and get your brand involved in supporting a worthy cause? Awesome! You should totally do that, but let’s save the high-fives for a bit and make sure you know what that means. While cause marketing can benefit both you and the non-profit, it’s not as easy as writing a check and watching your business soar. Below is a beginner’s guide to cause marketing. Let’s find out if your brand is ready.

What Cause Marketing IS and IS NOT

Cause marketing IS a mutually beneficial and cooperative effort between a for-profit and non-profit company.

It is NOT corporate philanthropy – your brand is not just making a tax-deductible donation to the non-profit, you’re actively working to support them. We’re all for corporate philanthropy here, but that’s not what we’re talking about.

It IS a marketing relationship in which your brand commits to raising funds, generating awareness, driving up membership/volunteer bases, etc.

It is NOT sponsorship – your brand cannot reap the benefits of affiliating yourself with the cause or non-profit by just slapping your logo on some materials and letting them do all the heavy lifting.


One of the first and best examples was in 1983 when American Express donated 1 cent for every usage of their cards to help renovate the Statue of Liberty. They raised $1.7 million and saw a 28% increase in card usage and 17% increase in new membership during that year.

In 1997, Coca-Cola and Walmart teamed up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to donate 15 cents from every case of Coca-Cola purchased in a six-week period at over 400 locations. Coca-Cola and Walmart saw sales increase 490% during that period.

How Can It Benefit Your Brand?

You mean besides the warm fuzzies you’ll get from your honorable contribution to a worthy cause? I guess there are some additional benefits, like:

  • Increased sales
  • Developing stronger customer loyalty
  • Differentiating your brand from competitors
  • Enhancing your brand image

According to the Cone Millennial Cause Study in 2006, 89% of Americans (aged 13 to 25) would switch from one brand to another brand of a comparable product (and price) if the latter brand were associated with a “good cause.” People who support causes, support the companies that support those causes.

How To Prepare

Know the Cause/Organization

  • Who is their audience and how does it align with yours?
  • Do they provide products, services, or both – and how can you support their efforts?
  • Are they large or small, local, national or international?

Value Proposition: What Can Your Brand Provide to the Cause/Organization?

  • Product sales
  • Marketing and PR
  • Access to staff and volunteers
  • Distribution of materials

What Is the End Goal for Your Brand and the Non-Profit?

  • Raising funds
  • Raising awareness
  • Increasing memberships/volunteer base

Is Your Brand Ready?

  • Who from your team will be responsible for executing specific tasks?
  • What assets do you have readily available to contribute?
  • What new practices/procedures will need to be implemented in order to execute?

What To Be Wary Of

Time and Effort

Cause related marketing requires a good amount of both from your brand as well as the non-profit. But keep in mind, the non-profit may not have a large staff, budget, or resources to commit – this can, and will, fall on your shoulders if you’re not prepared.


While there are many success stories in the cause marketing world, there are also not-so successful stories. Planning, preparing and executing a successful campaign isn’t always cheap, depending on the scope of your intended partnership. Promotion, materials, staffing, event setup, etc. can set you back before you even begin. Plan ahead and know your limitations.

The Law

You need to be transparent with the public about what your brand is contributing to the partnership, how you plan to do it, and why you are doing so. Watch dog groups and governmental agencies are always on the look out to ensure that for-profit companies are not profiting at the expense of the non-profit. An otherwise successful campaign can be derailed quickly if you’re suspected of deceptive practices.

Olive & Company

Founded in 2003, Olive & Company has dedicated our existence to a single purpose: providing finely tuned Modern Marketing solutions that drive brands and deliver business results. By helping brands stay in tune with emerging trends and technology, we give them the tools they need to adapt and refine their strategies to better engage and inspire their audiences.