Researching a Company for Your Cause - dummies

Researching a Company for Your Cause

By Joe Waters, Joanna MacDonald

Before you even think about asking a company to support your cause, ask the following questions about each one. Answering these questions first will save you time, a lot of frustration, and maybe even embarrassment.

  • Does the company support other causes? You may think you want a company that’s never worked with another cause. You’ll have them all to yourself! But that company may not support causes for some very good reasons. Maybe it doesn’t want to. Maybe it tried and failed. But when a company already works with one or more causes, it’s a good sign they are community-minded and philanthropic.

    Oftentimes, a company that supports one cause will support more, especially when you’re bringing a business opportunity like cause marketing to the table. The company that has never supported a cause may not be open to your ideas. Go where you’re wanted and expected.

  • Is the company a “good” business? Nonprofits use cause marketing to support their missions, not to hurt them. But aligning your cause with a company that has a poor reputation in the community, or questionable business practices, can hurt your cause. Research potential partners with your nonprofit board, local Chamber of Commerce, and the Better Business Bureau. Your cause needs cause marketing, not crisis communication.

  • Does your cause and the business share a natural connection? What’s a better fit for a toy store? A cause that supports children with HIV/AIDS or a local historical preservation group?

    When a cause and company’s mission intersect, it can be called a Garanimal cause marketing because it’s a natural match, sometimes too much. It’s best when cause and company have distinctive identities that don’t blend beyond consumer recognition. Yes, like those perfectly matched but predictable Garanimal clothes.

    A list of the causes that The Vitamin Shoppe supports.

    While the historical preservation wasn’t a good match for the toy store, that doesn’t mean they can’t do cause marketing. How about partnering with a hardware store or paint company? There’s a business for just about every cause. You just need to find the right match.

  • Are the company’s customers your supporters? The largest causes and companies that practice cause marketing put a good deal of thought and research into what nonprofits and businesses will resonate with donors. You should examine this as well. Here are examples of two nonprofits that wisely put customers before cause:

    • Komen, the breast cancer giant best known for its pink cause marketing products, targets companies that make products for women, such as footwear-maker New Balance and the hearty family meals from Campbell’s Soups.

    • Share Our Strength, a national anti-hunger organization based in Washington, D.C. targets companies that serve the restaurant community, as many of their fundraising events are run and supported by chefs and other food service workers.

These are just a few ideas to help you begin profiling the right companies for cause marketing. You’ll probably have more questions before you ever contact a company. But if the company you’re targeting has a history of supporting good causes, a good reputation in the community, a connection in either mission or customers with your cause, you may just have a good prospect.