4 Steps To Achieving Lasting Cause Marketing Partnerships


This is a guest post from Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice. You can reach Ashley at ashley@softwareadvice.com.

The idea of cause marketing has been around since the '70s -- that is, developing a partnership between nonprofits and for-profits with a sense of lateral interest and synergy, demonstrating ROI for both parties. How does a nonprofit begin a cause marketing endeavor? Professionals from both nonprofit organizations and weigh in to help NPOs establish a plan of action.

The first step is determining what the nonprofit actually hopes to achieve through the partnership. Some nonprofits are in dire need of funding--whether that be via grants or assistance with fundraising. Some nonprofits are seeking exposure, leveraging them into public light--boosting visibility, building credibility, raising awareness for a mission and cause, and, hopefully, building donor, volunteer, and member bases. Others, however, may be seeking labor or hard goods to further their mission. Knowing what your organization really needs will allow you to better establish a list of contacts and prospective business partners. You can then determine what your organization can offer the company. This is a sometimes overlooked step; keep in mind, an offer is only attractive if there is a a return on investment. Many nonprofits are seeking partnerships--what unique ROI can you offer?

When compiling prospective companies, keep existing connections in mind. Once you've determined your proposition value and a list of achievements being sought through a cause marketing partnership, begin your company research. Create a list of prospects whose mission and values seem in alignment with your NPO's missions, who have positive public image, and who you think your organization can also benefit. Also, consider companies who board members may already have a contact within. If not, consider who within the company would be the best person to reach out to.

Once a list of prospective companies is compiled, begin to reach out to the companies in mind. Learn as much about them as possible. Understand their public image and presence, their company philosophy and missions. Find a pain point that your organization can perhaps address for the company. It's important to connect the dots for them. Come prepared with a flexible agenda that can be modified to benefit all parties involved.

Once a partnership begins, regular nourishment is necessary to retain the relationship. Enough cannot be stated for the value in open, continual, honest communication. To ensure a relationship will have longevity, regular nourishment is necessary. An FPB should see a clear value in their partnership with your nonprofit. Additionally, keep the for-profit company active in your organization. Consider recruiting volunteers or company involvement for the nonprofit's events, endeavors, and public outreach. Having an emotional connection to a nonprofit significantly improves interest from both parties. And that mutual interest, paired with demonstrated ROI, are the adhesive components of a cause marketing relationship.

What experiences does your organization have with cause marketing? Do you have insights outside of these suggestions that can help a nonprofit achieve a successful cause marketing campaign?