For more than two decades, I have been helping U.S. nonprofits and corporations create high-profile cause marketing campaigns together, raising millions in the process. The one consistent question I have gotten through the years from almost every nonprofit I have worked with is, “how do I create a successful cause marketing partnership for my nonprofit?”  

Before we answer that question, let’s first define cause marketing. Cause marketing is an alignment between a company and a cause linking monetary or in-kind donations to product sales or other consumer actions during a specified time. An example would be adding $1 for charity at the point-of-sale or a co-branded product, where a percentage of the sale of the item benefits a cause. There are many other kinds of corporate/cause partnerships, including sponsorships, grants, and employee engagement, but cause marketing partnerships are the ones that nonprofits covet the most. Why you ask? Simply put, cause marketing campaigns have the ability to effectively and quickly raise millions of dollars.

Now, back to the question: How does a nonprofit create successful cause marketing partnerships for their nonprofit?  

The secret to creating strong national cause marketing partnerships is about actively engaging in three key time frames within the relationship cycle: Before the nonprofit pitches a corporate target, during the actual pitch and activation of the campaign in the marketplace, and after the campaign is completed. 

Let’s take a closer look at the three key time frames.  

  1. Before the Pitch. Maybe the most important part of the whole process involves preparation, which includes creating a solid interdepartmental foundation before ever pitching a company, especially in those nonprofits where traditional fundraising like major gifts and galas are king. Things to think about include:
    • Educating the organization on the value of cause marketing and the expectations of corporate partners when creating alignments;
    • Executive buy-in, understanding, and level-setting;
    • Multi-departmental activation teams;
    • Organizational partnership guidelines;
    • Understanding and leveraging assets;
    • Minimum thresholds of giving and organizational stance on exclusivity; and
    • Legal requirements.
  2. During the Pitch/Campaign. Pitching new partners is what everyone thinks of when they think of creating new partnerships. Unfortunately, it is the part of the process where too many nonprofits just wing it. Things to think about include:
    • Creating an appealing pitch deck,
    • Defining a target pipeline using matchmaking software,
    • Knowing your constituent profiles and value unique pitch points,
    • Doing the research on each target, and
    • Training your team on the pitch process.
  3. After the Campaign. You would be surprised how many nonprofits think the work is done once the campaign is over and the corporation has issued the funds to your organization, but this is definitely not the case. On this front, some things to think about include:
    • Measuring the success of the campaign in the marketplace by defining the impact in key three areas,
    • Creating a wrap report that defines that value for the partner and deliver that report within 30-60 days of the end of the campaign,
    • Working with the partner company to thank the consumers that contributed with the same vigor in which you asked them to give during the campaign, and
    • Using the wrap report to renew and expand the relationship.

Side note: The reason most nonprofits are not successful at maximizing or maintaining cause marketing partnerships is because they only focus on the second time frame.

Published in conjunction with the previously held special event webinar, Planned Giving Success: Strategies to Maximize Donor Gifts.

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About the Author(s)

Maureen Carlson Chief Strategy Officer Catalist

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