10 Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2014 [Podcast + Post]

The Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2016 is Out!

In December, Selfish Giving celebrated its 10th anniversary. For almost as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve been writing an annual post on the best cause marketing promotions. 

Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2013

Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2012

Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2011

I love writing this post because you love reading it! It always ignites a lot of interest in cause marketing.

Every year, I choose cause marketing promotions that are both successful and aspirational. The latter is especially important to me. I want you to say,

“That’s so cool and different. I want to
try something like that.”

“We can do cause marketing. What’s stopping us?”

I also like promotions that have grit, determination and creativity. Because that's what it takes to succeed in cause marketing - and everything else in life.

Which one is your favorite? Did your favorite promotion make my list, or did I pass it over? Use the comments to let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you!



Uber, Share Our Strength Team Up for #5MillionMeals

uber no kid hungry

Promotion: #5MillionMeals

Partners: Uber, Share Our Strength

Why I Picked It: It's been amazing over the past year how many cause-related programs Uber has launched to give vets jobs, find homes for cats and dogs and collect clothes for the needy. They've done an excellent job using their app and customer base for social good.

Uber's latest program with Share Our Strength was a home run. Their initial goal was to provide #3MillionMeals for children in need by allowing riders to make a $5 donation within the Uber app to support No Kid Hungry.

Within four days, the Uber Community had donated enough money to provide a record #5MillionMeals!

I loved that Uber took risks and broke the rules - for GOOD! In addition to asking customers to make a donation within the Uber app for the first time ever, the company found its way around the Apple app policy that bans in-app donations.

Charitweet does a nice job breaking down what Uber did and why Apple needs to amend its policies so other companies can use their apps for good! 

For More Information: Thank You, Uber Community for #5MillionMeals to No Kid Hungry 

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Apps for (RED), Digital Fundraisers on Pinterest

'Omaha!' Raises $68,850 for PeyBack Foundation

omaha peyton manning

Promotion: Omaha! 

Partners: Omaha, Nebraska, Peyback Foundation

Why I Picked It: Someone in Omaha, Nebraska is pretty darn smart. He or she noticed that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said "Omaha!" at the line of scrimmage - a lot. Peyton said it all season long, and he wasn't the only Quarterback that did. Tom Brady said it too.

To ride the wave of media and fanfare that accompanies the NFL playoffs, 17 Omaha companies agreed to donate $500 to Manning's Peyback Foundation each time he said "Omaha!" The national media picked up on the stunt and the City of Omaha got a ton of publicity. Manning won too. The Peyback Foundation received nearly $70,000. 

Manning said what we were all thinking. “I never thought that a football play call word would turn into a way to raise money for kids that are going through tough times and I can’t tell you how grateful that I am.”

For More Information: Peyton Manning Presented With $68,850 Check In Omaha For ‘Omaha!’

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like:  Wanted: Nonprofits That Aren't Boring

Kmart Raises $22 Million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

thanks and giving

Promotion: Thanks and Giving 

Partners: Kmart, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Why I Picked It: When I first read that a larger retailer had raised $22 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital I was blown away by how much money the promotion raised.

I was even more surprised by who had raised the money. How the heck could Kmart - a struggling retailer that is closing stores as fast as Target is opening them - raise so much money for St. Jude? Of course, my skepticism spilled over into my blog where I questioned the numbers.

And I was dead wrong.

The public relations team at Kmart emailed me to explain how and why the program was so successful.

We can tell you that St. Jude is a cause that clearly resonates with our Kmart Shop Your Way members and customers, and millions of them embraced the campaign like never before. In addition, Kmart associates were as dedicated as ever, consistently reminding and educating our shoppers about the campaign. Further, we’re always looking to streamline our process to better serve our members. This year we upgraded our check-out technology to make it even easier and faster for customers to make a donation at the register. All told, it’s a great example of how small changes and small acts by many people working together toward a wonderful goal can yield amazing results.

Kmart continues to struggle. But that makes their $22 million fundraising feat even more impressive in my eyes. I hope the new year brings good news for Kmart, and another successful campaign to support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

For More Information: How the Hell Did Kmart Raise $22 Million for St. Jude?

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Raise More Money from Businesses with PinupsPinup Fundraisers on Pinterest

Facebook Fights Back with 'Stop Ebola'

Promotion: Stop Ebola

Partners: Facebook, International Medical Corps, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Save the Children, UNICEF and NetHope

Why I Picked It: When Facebook decided to fight Ebola by adding a “Donate” button to the top of its news feed, it wasn't the first time the world's biggest social media site had responded to an emergency. Facebook launched a similar effort after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. But it came at a critical time when the world was rocked by the spread of Ebola, but wasn't doing much about it.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg kicked the Ebola fundraising off with a personal gift of $25 million. He also pledged to work with UNICEF on an education program to stop the spread in West Africa. Facebook also launched a collaboration with NetHope to provide emergency voice and data services to medical and aid workers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. 

Within days of Facebook's announcement, Google launched its own fundraiser to fight Ebola. While some people criticized Silicon Valley companies for being late-comers to the fight against Ebola, Zuckerberg and Facebook came through in spades when the battle was at a low point. 

For More Information: Facebook Fights Ebola With Donate Button Atop Feed

If you Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: 8 Facebook Contests to Build Your Fan Base, Support Nonprofits


Lush 'Charity Pot' Raises $6 Million for 600 Nonprofits Worldwide 

lush charity pot

Promotion: Charity Pot

Partners: LUSH + 600 Charities

Why I Picked It: I had never heard of LUSH's Charity Pot until Forbes writer Helaina Hovitz wrote about them in December. Helaina didn't know about the program until December herself! But we're both lucky we found it.

The concept is simple. When you buy a Charity Pot body lotion all the money from the sale goes to the nonprofit featured on the lid. Since 2007, the promotion has raised nearly $6 million for over 600 nonprofits.

Most of those nonprofits are animal welfare, environmental conservation, and humanitarian causes with annual revenues below $500,000. This program a full-time effort for LUSH. Three staff people manage the program year-round.

I love the Charity Pot program for several reasons.

LUSH gives 100% of the retail sale to the nonprofit. Percentage of sales programs have become a lightening rod for cause marketing controversy with people complaining about how much is going to the cause. Like LUSH, more companies should designate a product from which 100% will benefit a charity.

LUSH is supporting small nonprofits. These organizations often sit on the sidelines of cause marketing and watch the dollars flow to big charities like American Cancer Society, The Salvation Army and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. More companies should make giving to small nonprofits a priority.

LUSH is impact focused. “We find these groups when they need a lift up, and ideally, after a year, we hope to get them in a position where they don’t need us anymore,” LUSH explained to Helaina. They also support their nonprofit partners with volunteering.

Have a charity partner in mind for Charity Pot? You can learn about the process and suggest a partner here.

For More Information: Following the Millions in LUSH's 'Charity Pot'

If you Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Cause Product Fundraisers on Pinterest

Wendy's Officially Adopts the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

dave thomas foundation for adoption

Promotion: Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

Partners: Wendy's, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

Why I Picked It: Wendy's has always been a big supporter of adoption programs. After all, the late Dave Thomas, the chain's founder, was himself adopted. In 1992, he founded the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

But Wendy's connection with the Foundation had always been low-key - until last year. That's when Wendy's realized they could be giving more to - and getting more from - the foundation and its adoption efforts. 

“You walk into a restaurant today and there’s a canister there and you can put in some spare change, and millions of dollars have been raised that way,” said Craig Bahner, Wendy’s chief marketing officer to the New York Times.

“But we haven’t done it in a holistic way that could really drive awareness, and that really educates consumers about why it’s important and why it matters to us," said Bahner. 

Adoption services need all the love they can get. After Jockey International, the underwear company, there aren't too many major brands that are matching needy kids with loving families.

In addition to selling Frosty key tags for a dollar at the register, Wendy’s has given the foundation a prominent spot on its website with a new “adoption hub” where visitors can learn more about adoption and the Foundation’s work. Wendy’s is also devoting advertising dollars to the campaign.

What I like best about Wendy's is they value cause marketing without overvaluing it.

“It’s very important that people know that there’s more to you than just selling cheeseburgers to make a buck,” Mr. Bahner told the Times. “We’re not setting out to grow our sales by 5 percent by doing this, but this is a great cause, and people will think more favorably of our brand, so maybe we’ll win a tiebreaker.”

I'll raise a Frosty to that. 

For More Information: The Fast Food Guide to Good Marketing, 5 Lessons You Should Adopt from Wendy's New Cause Promotion

If you Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: 3 Cause Marketing Predictions for 2015 (Check out #3)

Drink for a Cause During Negroni Week

drink for a cause

Promotion: Negroni Week

Partners: Imbibe Media, Campari America + 1,321 Bars & Restos + Nonprofits Worldwide

Why I Picked It: The numbers say it all about this promotion. In just its second year, Negroni Week participation grew more than 10-fold with 1,321 bars and restaurants from 18 countries and 46 U.S. states.

Negroni Week raised $120,000 compared to $10,000 in 2013.

Participating bars and restaurants get to choose the charity that will receive the donation - usually a buck or two from the sale of each Negroni cocktail. The top fundraiser receives an additional $10,000 for their charity.

Negroni Week started local and has stayed local. It all began with a group of local bars in Portland that sold Negronis for a cause after the Oklahoma tornado.

Today, bars and restaurants worldwide still get to pick their own cause. Imbide Media and Campari America support the effort with a dedicated web site, print advertising, online ads and social media. There were nearly 5,000 posts on Instagram using the #NegroniWeek hashtag, more than 15,000 on Twitter and thousands more on Facebook.

I can't wait to see how Negroni Week grows in 2015.

For More Information: Cause Marketing Effort Is Centered on the Negroni

If you Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Negroni Week Pinterest BoardThe Definitive Guide to Fundraising with Products & Services

Cumberland Farms Puts ALS on Ice, Raises $54,000

cumberland farms supports als

Promotion: #StrikeOutALS

Partners: Cumberland Farms, ALS Association

Why I Picked It: With all the fanfare around the #IceBucketChallenge last summer, I thought for sure business-to-consumer companies (i.e. retailers, restaurants, supermarkets) would rush to create cause marketing fundraisers to engage their customers and raise money to fight ALS. For whatever reason, they didn't.

One notable exception was Cumberland Farms, a Massachusetts-based chain of conveniences stores. It started with a challenge from an employee.

"Many of our employees here at Cumberland Farms have taken the Ice Bucket Challenge, and one store employee challenged us to make a donation in his Facebook video," said Ari Haseotes, CEO of Cumberland Gulf Group back in August. "We have accepted his challenge and will be making a donation for each bag of ice purchased through September 1st."

Cumberland Farms donated 20 cents from every bag of ice sold in its 600 stores to the ALS Association. Ultimately, the chain sold 270,000 bags of ice and raised $54,000.  While other businesses jumped on the bandwagon and donated profits from ice sales to the ALS Association, Cumberland Farms was the first to help and first in dollars raised.

That makes them #1 in my book! 

For More Information: Cumberland Farms Nominates Its Customers to #StrikeOutALS

If you Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Special Occasion Fundraisers on Pinterest, 7 Things Businesses Can Do Now to Support the #IceBucketChallenge

The Miracle Machine: A Good Hoax

hoax for a cause

Promotion: The Miracle Machine

Partners: MSLGROUP, Wine to Water

Why I Picked It: Is it okay to trick people when it helps a great cause?

This became a real debate earlier this year after the nonprofit Wine to Water, global PR agency MSLGROUP, and two wine industry experts pulled off a hoax that hundreds of news sites - including ABC News and Time Magazine - covered as real news.

It all began as an effort to promote a great cause: Wine to Water, which was founded by Doc Hendley, a former bartender turned do-gooder. MSLGROUP, a global public relations agency, adopted Wine to Water after one of its managing directors saw the charity profiled on CNN Heroes. Doc knew that Wine To Water needed to do something dramatic to cut through the clutter and get people’s attention.

With the help of two Napa Valley wine experts, they developed and launched The Miracle Machine, which claimed to turn water into wine in three days. 

Fabulous, right?

One publication thought so. Business Insider ran the first story on The Miracle Machine.

That’s all it took!

The mainstream press picked up the story and The Miracle Machine appeared in at least 600 publications, and it was read over 500 million times! A Kickstarter board for the machine generated 7,000 requests for more information on the product.

But underneath all the allure and fascination with this revolutionary product was a GOOD secret. The Miracle Machine was a fake! Two weeks after Business Insider ran its story – the hoaxters came clean. In a video, they explained that the true miracle was not turning water into wine, but wine to water. That’s the work of Doc Hendley’s organization Wine To Water.

The hoax introduced Wine to Water to millions of potential supporters.

If you had asked me before The Miracle Machine to name a clean water organization I’d say Charity: Water. Now I can name another: Wine to Water. I don’t feel duped; I feel enlightened. I don’t believe anyone was hurt by the hoax––except maybe the Business Insider reporter who was the unfortunate patsy.

Everyday people call, write, and tweet me about nonprofits I’ve never heard of, and have no good reason to remember. But I didn't forget Wine to Water.

Over the past year, I've written about them at least six times. For me and millions of others, The Miracle Machine worked.

For More Information: Hoax for a Cause: Wine to Water

If you Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Special Occasion Fundraisers on Pinterest, Wanted: Nonprofits That Aren't Boring

Blue Moon Brewing Raises Moon - and Money - for Americans for the Arts

blue moon cause marketing

Promotion: Raise a Moon

Partners: Blue Moon Brewing Company, Americans for the Arts

Why I Picked It: Everyone know that arts organizations can't do cause marketing. It's impossible. They just don't have the emotional pull that children and health-related charities have. Arts organizations should just focus on individual giving, especially major gifts. 

True? Maybe. But I'm glad no one told Americans for the Arts and Blue Moon Brewing Company.

Other arts organizations could learn a lot from a partnership between Blue Moon Brewing Company and Americans for the Arts that happened last March. In collaboration with local artists, Blue Moon sponsored an interactive public art installation that raised a moon into the sky at the DUMBO Archway in Brooklyn in response to fan retweets.

With every retweet of the @BlueMoonBrewCo handle the moon rose and the brewing company donated $5 to Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the arts and arts education and home to the Public Art Network. The promotion raised $4,000.

Any organization can do cause marketing. The challenging part is recruiting a business partner. Arts organizations should stop saying “I can’t” and start building connections in the business community. They should be prepared to make a case to businesses on why a partnership would be a good fit for both partners. Remember, Blue Moon and Americans for the Arts shared an “artistic approach.”

For arts organizations that have never tried cause marketing it must seem like you have to move heaven and earth. But you don’t. Americans for the Arts just moved the moon. It’s a lot easier than you think.

For More Information: Arts Organizations Can Do Cause Marketing

If you Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Beer for a Cause Aids Family of Fallen Firefighter, Hashtag Fundraisers on Pinterest