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Rating Your Cause Marketing Program

Writing in PhilanthropyAction.com, Editor-in-Chief Tim Ogden proposed a cause marketing rating system for businesses and causes to follow and for consumers to use when they evaluate cause promotions.

Try applying Ogden’s standards to your next cause marketing program:

  • First standard: The program says exactly what charity will receive the funds, with enough information for a person to find and investigate the charity on their own. No more “A portion of the proceeds from this product will support cancer research.” Say exactly which organization(s) the donation will benefit so that the consumer can explore its efforts ourselves.

  • Second standard: The program says exactly how much money the charity will receive (either in total or from each purchase with a projection of the total and any minimum or maximums built-in). Note that percentages, especially such nebulous percentages as “2 percent of the profits,” do not meet this standard.

    Indicate in plain English what the donation will be! A penny? A dime? A buck for each item sold? Or will a flat donation of a fixed amount be made at the end of the program?

  • Third standard: The program says when the charity will receive the funds. Having a date when the promotion concludes and when the money will be delivered to the cause shows consumers that you’re committed to ethical, transparent, and impactful giving.

  • Fourth standard: The program says what the funds will be used for or if there are any restrictions on the use of funds.

    This is especially important when brands link up to very large charities that do lots of things in lots of places (for example, Save the Children, United Way, World Wildlife Fund). This isn’t about the good or bad of restricted funds; it’s just asking for full disclosure on the terms of the funds and what they will be used for.

    Will the money be unrestricted (can be used for anything the cause chooses) or restricted (limited to a specific program or type of expenditure, such as food, equipment, or medicine). Be specific on where the money is going and how it will be used.

  • Fifth standard: The program says why the charity was chosen. Most programs won't meet this criteria, but it’s important to push corporations with charitable programs to using the resources at their disposal to help the general public find good charities.

    Corporations invest millions of dollars in these cause marketing campaigns. The least they could do is spend some of that money doing due diligence on the charities and telling the public what they find. Causes would be foolish to leave out this storytelling component.

    This is less a standard and more a reminder for companies and causes to share their stories and the impact they had on each other.

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