David and Goliath

SlingerOne of the biggest challenges for the cause marketing programs in small shops is cracking the national retailers that usually only work with large, national charities (e.g. The Gap with RED, CVS with St. Jude's Hospital, Payless Shoes with Komen). 

Working with a national retailer makes perfect fundraising sense: the more stores a chain has, the more money you can raise through point-of-purchase programs.  Would you rather have your mobile sold at 15 stores in Greater Boston or at 1200 stores across the U. S.?  But convincing a national chain to adopt your local nonprofit in multiple markets can be tough--though not impossible.  Here are a few tips that just might land you that pact with a national player.

Start regionally.  Many national retailers group their stores by region--New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, etc.--which can be blessed with regional marketing people and (gasp!) local marketing dollars.  A national quick-lube chain partner of mine has a New England office right outside Boston.  This made getting to know them and striking a pact a lot easier than if I had to work with their main office in Texas.  Sure, we didn't start by working with hundreds of their locations across the country, but we did begin with over 40 in Massachusetts, which has raised us tens of thousands of dollars two years in a row.  It's also given us a platform from which to press in to other markets where the chain is located.      

Work with the locals.  When iParty wanted to raise money for my organization at all their stores, which are mainly in New England but are also in Florida, we identified a local safety-net hospital in Florida with whom we could share a portion of the money raised.  This made it easier to ask Floridians to support two organizations that were providing health services to the poor, one in their home state the other in Massachusetts. 

Join forces.  When children's hospitals in major cities across the U. S. wanted to reap the rewards of national partnerships--deals that individual hospitals could never have closed on their own--they started the Children's Miracle Network.  As CMN members, children's hospitals from around the country now have lucrative partnership deals with Rite Aid, Ace Hardware, Papa John's, Dairy Queen and other companies that raise funds for the umbrella organization Children's Miracle Network. 

We all like to think that we have the brand-power to go it alone.  But working together with other like-minded organizations isn't just smart, it's also lucrative.  Just ask the members of the Children's Miracle Network.  Since inception CMN has raised $2.7 billion.