For Menchie's Fundraising for Nonprofits Starts with a Smile

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There's so much to learn from Menchie's Frozen Yogurt and their cause marketing fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association that this will have to be the first of several posts. Their program is so good, so rich, so creamy and so delicious it will require more than one serving for this cause marketer.

But like their frozen yogurt, I promise you'll enjoy it!

Menchie's promise to the planet is We make you smile. And this campaign is no exception. Here's how they put a smile on me and on every man, woman and child that has muscular dystrophy or supports MDA.

Menchie's pledged to make a difference. This was a first year program for the fast growing frozen yogurt chain and they could have easily started small with coin canisters at a few locations. They didn't. They took on the most lucrative type of cause marketing: pinups. With busy stores and 200 U. S. locations participating, it was the best way for Menchie's to raise a lot of money. They didn't disappoint. In four weeks they raised over $234,000.

Menchie's adopted MDA. As someone who tracks and writes about cause marketing programs for a living, I questioned whether MDA was a good choice for Menchie's. Let's be clear: I started my nonprofit career with MDA and admire their work - especially Jerry Lewis' unrecognized contribution to cause marketing.

But MDA is what I call an old world charity that's trying to find its place in a new world order. Perhaps Menchie's realized this as they didn't use MDA's signature Shamrock pinup. Instead, they created their own, which is as unique, colorful and fun as their brand.

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"The tagline for the campaign It takes 13 muscles to smile and only one to make a a difference is right in line with the Menchie's promise to deliver a 'smiley experience,' explained Menchie's CEO Amit Kleinberger. "If customers like what we do as a business they'll like the cause we ask them to support."

Menchie's added toppings. Self-serve frozen yogurt chains such as Menchie's promise a delicious frozen yogurt that can be topped with just about anything. Captain Crunch, lychee and popping boba are just three of the dozens of choices Menchie's offers. They know the power of adding something special to their product, and it extended to their fundraiser for MDA.

First, Menchie's rewarded donors with a 15% off coupon for their next visit to the chain.

Second, they made the program fun by hanging the pinups throughout their stores and even used them to spell out words. One Hawaii store spelled out ALOHA! Another spelled out MDA in their front window. The pictures on Menchie's Facebook page feature customers and employees flexing their muscle for MDA and just having fun.

Many businesses see pinups as tacky and kitschy and won't display them in their stores. For Menchie's, the pinups were temporary wallpaper that tell a powerful story of a company that cares.

Menchie's listened to its heart and head.Menchie's pinup program is packed with heart, but Kleinberger used his head when he chose MDA. Menchie's senior management team didn't have a personal connection with muscular dystrophy. No one had a stricken daughter or son, or an ailing spouse or parent with Lou Gehrig's Disease - perhaps the most well known form of muscular dystrophy.

With no clear choice, Kleinberger treated the process like a hiring and interviewed three charities.

"MDA was very professional," he said. "They understood our business and what we were trying to accomplish. After meeting with them, we all believed that MDA had tremendous potential to do good in the world."

The program embodied the Menchie's mantra We make you smile. From choosing a cause that gave them and others joy to picking a tag line that celebrated our most important muscle, this program proves that cause marketing for companies of all sizes can be powerful, effective and fun.

It all starts with a smile.

A big thank you to my Los Angeles friend Filiberto Gonzalez for introducing me to Menchie's. He supplied me with the second picture in this post.