Three Keys to Successful Cause Marketing

by Ryan Charnov

According to a 2014 IEG Sponsorship Report, $1.92 Billion will be spent on cause marketing in 2015. As consumers become increasingly socially conscious, the opportunities for partnerships between corporations and charitable causes will continue to grow exponentially. Given increased competition, leaders can make their cause stand out by focusing on three key areas:

Cause Marketing by the NumbersTransparency:

Consumers demand complete transparency from cause marketing efforts. In the past, campaigns have moved away from using vague language in messaging, such as saying “up to 15% will be donated to charity”. Oftentimes, that 15% represents a maximum percentage that is only reached at exorbitant levels of sales. More often than not, the actual donation is less than half of the stated maximum percentage. This sleight of hand damages the credibility of all cause marketing efforts and will not be tolerated by consumers in the future.

cm2Transparency, however, is more than just stating what percent of sales go to charity. AmazonSmile, for example, states that they give .5% of their sales to charity, but consumers tend to not realize that they have to spend $200 to raise just one dollar. Furthermore, consumers want to know how that dollar will be used by the charitable organization. Even the most fiscally responsible charities struggle to get the most out of your donation dollar. Four star charities, representing the top 1% of charities reviewed by Charity Navigator, use at least 75% of donated funds on programs. Would consumers feel differently about AmazonSmile if they knew that spending $200 would only lead to an extra 75 cents being spent on programs?

If charities want their cause marketing campaign to stand out, they need to convince consumers that every dollar of donations will have more than a dollar of impact on the community. A great example of this is The Houston Food Bank. In addition to educating consumers through a marketing video, The Houston Food Bank uses specific language such as “$20 provides 60 nutritious meals” and “$120 feeds a family of 4 for 1 month”.  As cause marketing continues to grow, consumers are going to demand a level of transparency that transcends current practices and educates consumers on how their actions will make a significant impact on the community.

Millennial Engagement:

Recently, a study by the MSLGROUP Future of Business Citizenship found that 69% of global millennials want businesses to make it easier for consumers to get involved in societal issues. Because millennials do not typically have the disposable income of older generations, they are generally an afterthought when it comes to serious fundraising campaigns. As innovators, it is our duty to create innovative methods for individuals of every generation to give back to the community. Future campaigns will take a multi-faceted approach to engagement, making it easier to give back through actions. My startup, Giftfluence, allows millennials to give back by through their everyday habits, such as shopping at Groupon.

cm3In addition to Giftfluence, there are many organizations that are actively working to make it easier to give back to charity. Some of my personal favorites are Charity Miles and Givesurance, which transform simple actions such as running or renewing your insurance into meaningful contributions to charity. Just one person can raise hundreds of dollars for charity by training through Charity Miles. While millennials may not have the means to donate hundreds of dollars directly, creative organizations will continue to find innovative methods for millennials to give back.

Centralized Platform:

Charities often run multiple cause marketing campaigns per year. Whether it’s asking supporters to eat at certain restaurants or directing them to shop at a specific retailer, charities are constantly tapping their network for support. As there become more methods of giving back, charities must determine which opportunities provide the greatest positive return on their effort. Can charities really justify using their limited resources promoting campaigns that only raise a few dollars?

To solve this problem, look for innovators to create a centralized platform that combines multiple methods of engagement to raise significant amounts money. A centralized platform will allow charities to simplify their marketing message and promote a singular campaign. This not only makes it easier for individuals to support charities, but also allows leaders of charities to concentrate on running their programs rather than on marketing campaigns. My goal in founding Giftfluence is to work with leaders in the space to fill this void and to help redefine the future of cause marketing.

Concerts, Millennial Activism and Beyoncé-sized Results

by Randi Berkovsky

According to research from Do, more than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. This is more than the maximum capacity of 19,452 New England Patriots football stadiums.

GlobalCitizen_StageOn September 26, Global Citizen hosted its 2015 festival in New York City. The purpose: to end this global poverty and incite change around the world while celebrating the United Nations’ new 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. There were more than 60,000 people in attendance to see a variety of artists and celebrities including Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, Malala Yousafzai, Bill and Melinda Gates and Stephen Colbert.

But, what does this mean for poverty?

On Sept. 24, The Nation published an article titled, ‘You Can’t Fight Poverty With a Concert,’ which was directly scrutinizing this movement with a claim that it had no lasting effects for the cause.

I completely disagree.

This festival brings two key takeaways to the forefront about trends in the social impact space and highlights just how critical an event like this can be for social activism and giving.

You can fight poverty with a concert. Maybe not today, but we can change the world in the span of the 15-year goal.

  • Millennials are not the biggest donor pool, but they will be.

Millennials are often criticized for being the largest generation in history but not the biggest generation of social donors. The truth is – it doesn’t matter. Millennials are now finding ways to be the strongest voices for social change. And these voices will soon turn into dollars as millennials move out of high school and post-graduate times where spending budgets are few and far between.

Concerts like the Global Citizen Festival encourage millennials to use their voices, the only thing they really have to give at this point in their life. This voice leads to awareness in others and creates a stir in leaders. A great example is Malala Yousafzai. She is only 18 years old and the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her voice has activated millions for the global right to education and has raised funds for a number of programs all by first using her voice and her amazing story of survival.

Social good concerts trigger deep emotions and create communities of people who can break through the most concrete political agendas. I guarantee that in a couple years, young people will still remember how the concert made them feel and what the organization and celebrities represented. Those feelings will convert to dollars, and the dollars fight poverty.


  • People love big events and celebrities, and that is OK.

Just because someone went to the Global Citizen Festival to see Beyoncé, does not make them any less of a global citizen. This is because the message and getting 60,000 attendees to convert on the message is what is most important. I know several people who entered the Global Citizen drawing to win free tickets to the concert. This did not come without something in return. Hopeful attendees signed petitions, tweeted at global officials and donated to the cause. Why would people put in all this effort if they didn’t really care about the cause at all? No one is going to put their name on something they could care less about. In 2014, Global Citizen followers, in support of organization partners, achieved commitments to affect 341.5 million of the world’s poor by 2020. When looking at a number like that, it doesn’t matter why someone went to the concert, it matters what they left with.


The article’s author poses with the Global Citizen stage in the background.

People love celebrities, and they love flashy events. As the market becomes more and more crowded with organizations vying for advocates and dollars, it is important to remember that if you have a strong organization and a strong message, then the only hurdle is getting people to show up. Concerts do more than just fulfill a personal dream of seeing Beyoncé shake it live – they get people in the door and expose them to the message they needed to hear. This message sparks emotion, leading to curiosity and ultimately, igniting activism, advocacy or giving.

These all help fight poverty

Rethinking Pink: The Bottom Line of Social Good

by Justin Kersey

pink-breast-cancer-ribbonOctober is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) and with it comes an onslaught of pink ribbons for what might arguably be one of the most successful cause marketing campaigns in the last 50 years. Since 1991, the pink ribbon has been a ubiquitous marketing tool that has led to endless sponsorships and promotions in the name of raising awareness for early-detection screenings.

Yet statistics show that mammography screenings are not reducing the number of breast cancer deaths and more startlingly, we may now be over diagnosing the disease. Even more shocking are the health-harming foods and products being slapped with a pink ribbon (remember the KFC Fried Chicken for the Cure campaign or the Smith & Wesson Breast Cancer Awareness 9mm pistol?)

All of this begs the question – are the multitudes of pink ribbons really increasing breast cancer awareness? Furthermore, don’t businesses and nonprofits have a duty to consumers to be transparent regarding what impact a sponsorship campaign is having and for whom?

I thought about this back in 2014 when I created Cake Cause Marketing (Cake), a platform that helps businesses and nonprofits create mutually beneficial online fundraising campaigns.

Cake allows businesses to pledge a certain amount of money up front and the nonprofit partner agrees to drive supporters to their campaign page through social media and email marketing. Each time a supporter clicks a specified link on a campaign page, the business donates a fixed amount of the pledged money to the nonprofit. In this way, Cake partners are able to create cause marketing campaigns that make a direct social impact, such as our $10,000 campaign between Offit Kurman and the Georgetown University Lombardi Cancer Center.


If pink ribbons have taught me anything it’s that cause marketing is a delicate balancing act of credibility and profitability–creating measurable social impact in addition to successful return on investment. Rest too heavily on either side of the equation, and a well-intentioned campaign can be mired in controversy faster than you can say “pinkwashing.”

A successful cause marketing effort must address a real need, feature real people, and make a real difference. More than anything, the partnership has to make sense to the consumer. That’s why each Cake campaign page provides the purpose of the campaign, the fundraising goal, and real-time data on the amount of support a campaign has received. That way, nonprofits raise the funds they need, businesses can measure the return on their investment, and consumers can confidently support the causes they are passionate about. After all, there’s no reason why ‘doing good’ shouldn’t be profitable for everyone.

Social Good Summit 2015: Key Takeaways for Social Impact Communicators

by Sara Dal Lago


Photo courtesy of Mashable

This year, the Social Good Summit 2015 proved once and for all the major, far-reaching impact that innovation can have on social good. New technologies can really empower and connect people from all over the world, and the Summit gave a concrete proof of their influence. With 1.6 billion impressions on Twitter and Instagram, the official hashtags #2030Now and #SocialGood went viral, making it a truly global event.

I was honored to be sitting in the Digital Media Lounge at the Social Good Summit tweeting live on behalf of CSIC. I cannot describe the vibe and the energy that dominated that room. A bunch of bloggers, journalists and activists armed with their laptops, smartphones and tablets, typing and recording the highlights of the discussions, and sharing them with their audiences online. I have to admit – until a few years ago, I used to be skeptical about the impact of digital and social networks. Now, I disagree with those who do not see how powerful those platforms can be. Now, I sincerely believe in the power of the new technologies, especially after being exposed to the impact projects and campaigns, which would not have been possible without a digital interaction, had on so many people around the world.

Photo courtesy of Mashable

Photo courtesy of Mashable

During one of my favorite sessions, “Social Media Is the New First Responder,” Naomi Gleit, VP of Product Management for Social Good at Facebook , Matt Petronzion, Social Good Editor at Mashable, and Pranav Shetty, Health Coordinator for the International Medical Corps, examined how social media is changing the way we see the world, while being a platform to promote humanitarian aid. As stated by Naomi, “Social media makes the world more connected, and we believe that is a social good.”

After two days of engaging discussions on social impact communications practices, here are my three key takeaways:

  1. Storytelling is content in context: As affirmed by Paul Polizzotto, Founder and President of EcoMedia, telling the real stories behind true issues enables people to go from passive viewers to active contributors. In order to motivate them to contribute, you should not ask for money, but ask people if they care about issues, and show them the tangible changes their impact can make.
  2. Social media can boost activism: Studies prove that the younger generations are determined to make a social impact, and digital platforms inspire and empower them to give back. Social media also connects resources and people who need them, and enables quick implementation, as proved by the partnership between Facebook and the International Medical Corps in response to the earthquake in Nepal.
  3. Virtual reality is the new age of storytelling: Christian Stephen, Global Editor at RYOT News and former correspondent in Syria, talked about the crossing of virtual reality and journalism. Virtual reality gives a framework for people to understand. By exposing them to the disturbing visions and by taking them out of their comfort zones, this new technology will develop empathy and bring action for social causes.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Social Good Summit 2015, you can watch the 2015 sessions here.

Social Good Summit, a call to action

by Rina Zelaya M.

A few weeks ago I read a small, yet interesting, piece in PR/CC´s weekly newsletter, it was about the upcoming Social Good Summit (SGS) that was to take place in NYC – one of the most dynamic cities in the world. I had heard about the SGS throughout the years but had never been able to be in the right place and time throughout its different editions. Nevertheless, this time everything seemed to fall into place so I jumped into the experience, not knowing very much what to expect and what I was to learn through it.

The city, of course, did not disappoint. But the best part was that the Summit surpassed my expectations, not only by the general event logistics, but also by its primary theme and line of communication. The Summit presented to the world seventeen goals that should focus our energy and attention for the next fifteen years; the goals aim at reducing inequality and injustice, ending extreme poverty and finding solutions to climate change.

What struck me most was the fact that these goals were not devised for political correctness or for the mere sake of entertaining politicians and diplomats.

In fact, these goals reflected the current world situation and the need to start solving problems from their origin, rather than dancing around them without carefully thought solutions. Seventeen goals can indeed be intimidating, however they represent a giant step in the right direction.


The 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Nonetheless, throughout the Summit and as each of the goals was explained a key message came across: these problems are everyone´s responsibility and everyone can and should get involved. Getting involved does not mean leaving your life and profession behind for a cause (though, it may be a way). Getting involved means choosing that goal that you identify yourself the most with and looking for platforms that are already working and to which you can contribute with your skills, knowledge time, or… money. The important thing is that we can no longer remain indifferent; we can no longer say we did not know. In a world as interconnected as our own, social media is a powerful voice for information to reach everyone and for all of us to get involved.

The big question now is: what do you dream about for 2030? How are you contributing to achieve this dream?

I highly encourage you to read more about the seventeen goals for the next fifteen years and to actively engage in achieving one of them; it is through a shared commitment that we will achieve them. To read more about the SGS, visit here, and to find out about the seventeen new goals go here.

sgs post

Photos from the Social Good Summit