The tactics of cause marketing are one of the key things that distinguish it from other types of partnerships, such as sponsorship. Cause marketing starts with a company and a cause, and both partners benefit. The essence of a cause marketing program is win-win. If you don’t have a win-win program, you don’t have cause marketing.

Cause marketing programs comes in six common types:

  • Point-of-sale program: When a consumer is solicited at the register for a donation either by a cashier (called active cause marketing) or by signage that is prominently displayed to encourage the shopper to make a gift (passive cause marketing), it’s called point-of-sale. Pinups, coin canisters, and electronic donations via a register credit card machine are all forms of point-of-sale programs.

  • Purchase or action-triggered donation program: When a consumer buys a product or service and a donation is made to a cause, it’s a purchase-triggered donation. Alternatively, instead of a purchase, a donation is made when the consumer performs some type of action. For example, over the holidays, the department store chain Macy’s traditionally donates a dollar to the Make-a-Wish Foundation for every letter to Santa dropped into its special store letterboxes.

  • Licensing program: In a licensing program, a company pays a fee to use a nonprofit’s brand on its product. Licensing may include a certification process by the nonprofit before the company is allowed to use the logo. Because a cause needs major brand appeal to execute a licensing program, it’s generally practiced by larger causes with the marketing muscle and legal staff to roll out a professional program. Licensing is not a tactic for your average or local cause.

  • Message promotion program: In this type of program, a business puts its resources to work to promote a cause-focused message. For example, a company may have production and advertising resources to create and air a 30-second commercial, newspaper ad, or radio schedule for a cause partner.

  • Employee engagement program: In this program, a company leverages its workforce for social good. Companies don’t just want to give money and product to causes; they want to engage their employees in meaningful work that helps the cause and promotes customer loyalty.

  • Digital programs: The web, social media, and especially location-based services will dramatically impact cause marketing and change the way the other types of cause marketing program are executed. To leave out a digital program is to leave out the future of cause marketing and how cause and companies will partner in the years to come.