One of the essentials is not treating consumers like fools. When they are asked to support a cause through a business, they want to know the following:

  • The cause that’s getting the money. Be specific and tangible. Make the cause real for the consumer. Don’t say, “Funds raised will be directed to cancer charities.” Instead say, “Funds support cancer care patients at Boston Medical Center.”

  • If the money is earmarked for a specific program within the cause. This information won’t confuse the consumers; it will make the ask more directed and meaningful. “Monies raised will support The Kids Fund at Boston Medical Center.”

  • How the money will be used. Consumers want to know how the money they’re donating will be used — so tell them. For example, say, “The Kids Fund provides a variety of necessity items — from eyeglasses to home medical equipment — for the hospital’s pediatric patients. More than 25,000 children receive care at BMC, and they are among the neediest population in the Boston area.”

  • If your promotion involves a purchase-triggered donation, be clear on how much the cause will receive from the sale. Don’t hide your giving behind “A portion of the proceeds will be donated to organizations that fight HIV/AIDS.” Really? What portion? Which organizations? Consider this example from World Aids Day 2010: “For every (RED) beverage purchased at Starbucks, five cents will be donated to buy lifesaving medicines for those living with HIV in Africa.”

The following illustration shows a program pinup. It does a good job telling donors where the money would go and what program would benefit, but it should have mentioned that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the food pantries. There is always room for improvement.