What Cause Marketing Is Not - dummies

What Cause Marketing Is Not

By Joe Waters, Joanna MacDonald

Cause marketing is something that is clearly defined as a win-win partnership between cause and company involving specific tactics. Part of understanding what cause marketing truly is means clearly understanding what it is not:

  • Cause marketing is not philanthropy. While philanthropy is one of the goals of cause marketing, giving is not its primary end. As the name indicates, it’s about cause marketing (marketing is the things we said and done to get and keep customers).

    If a company just wants to engage in philanthropy, it could just donate money to the cause, anonymously if it wanted. And if a cause was just interested in raising money, it could stick with proven fundraising practices like individual giving and grants from foundations. Cause marketing has benefits for both cause and company that extend well beyond the dollars raised or received.

  • Cause marketing is not sponsorship. It’s easy to confuse sponsorship with cause marketing. Sponsorship like cause marketing is win-win. What distinguishes the two are tactics.

    Consider the longstanding sponsorship of the Boston Marathon by financial services giant John Hancock. Is it a win-win partnership between a cause and company? Yes (the marathon is managed by the Boston Athletic Association, a nonprofit). Is it cause marketing? No. Cause marketing goes deeper and involves a close partnership between cause and company to execute a point-of-sale, purchase or action-triggered donation, licensing agreement, or other type of program for mutual gain.

    The good news is you can relax. Knowing the difference between cause marketing and sponsorship is not as important as knowing how the two can work together.


  • Cause marketing is not the road to riches. Based on experiences and what we’ve seen in the nonprofit world, most causes can raise an additional 5 to 15 percent of their revenues from cause marketing. So if you’re a $2 million organization, with time and effort, you may one day raise an additional $100,000 to $300,000 from cause marketing.

    This estimate is modest. Some nonprofits raise more, some less, but what they will all share are modest results in raising money with cause marketing. No one is hitting the lottery.

    Even for large causes like Susan G. Komen for the Cure that annually raises $35 million and more from pink sneakers, mixers, and pens, cause marketing is very visible but modest compared to the $265 million they raise from other sources. Yoplait, for example, has donated $25 million to Komen for the Cure over the past 12 years through a variety of programs.


  • Cause marketing is not impossible for small companies and causes. Any organization can do cause marketing by using the strategies outlined in this book and by following the lead of bigger causes and companies. But you need to scale them for your organization and be realistic about what you can accomplish.

    A clear understanding of what cause marketing is and how it works and its function for both causes and companies is critical to your success.