Just about every day I read about a nonprofit either looking for a cause marketer, or searching for someone to do cause marketing along with events, sponsorship, operations, human resources, major gifts. You know, the typical nonprofit multi-tasking stuff.
First, few people have cause marketing experience. Cause marketing is a niche skill set that most people just don't have. They can learn on the job, but I'm amazed the money nonprofits will pay to wait on results. They're reinventing the wheel, and it's totally unnecessary.
Second, say that you do find someone that's an experienced cause marketer, which means they've worked on a cause marketing team for one of the large nonprofits. Maybe they worked at Feeding America or Komen for the Cure or the American Cancer Society. These are big institutions with multi-million dollar cause marketing programs.
But here's the dirty secret: These people know little about how to start, grow and sell cause marketing for an organization that isn't a brand heavyweight.
These people are talented project managers, for sure, but their field is customer service, not sales. They're great when a company comes calling with their 5,000 locations and seven-figure advertising budget. But they're not so good when it comes to starting a cause marketing program and selling companies from a cold start.
I've talked to these shell-shocked people shortly after they've started with Average Joe Nonprofit and this is what they say.
"No one calls me back."
"My board isn't helpful."
"I have to do everything myself."
"No one knows who we are."
"All the companies I call are already working with a major charity."
"This is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."
You bet your ass it's hard.
That's why most nonprofits shouldn't hire a full-time cause marketer. They should hire an agency or consultant instead. Sure, it will cost more money in the beginning. But you'll see better results and ultimately raise more money, which will offset the expense.
I know what you're thinking: Joe's just trying to drum up some business for himself now that he's consulting. I'm always open to more business, but keep in mind that I'm an example of what you shouldn't do. I learned cause marketing on someone else's dime and it took years for me to get it (I'm a really slow learner). Listening to me now can save you time and money and lots of pain.
As a consultant, I'm not the right fit for everyone. My specialty is small and mid-size nonprofits and companies that want to engage in tactical, transactional cause marketing. If you're interested in point-of-sale, purchase triggered donations and digital cause marketing, I'm your guy. I'm also a cause marketing content producer that can help you pull companies in with tweets, blog posts and a hypnotizing Boston accent.
If this sounds like a good fit for you, contact me. But there are many other good people you can talk to. Here are some of the agencies and consultants I recommend. I'd be proud and happy to speak with you about any one of these people.
The home of two of my favorite cause marketers, Carol Cone and Kristian Darigan Merenda. International, full service firm.
Awesome full service cause marketing agency headed my Mollye Rhea. Tactics, strategy, branding, sponsorship. They do it all. Based in Atlanta.
Cause Media Group
Cause marketing specialists, especially in the digital space. Led by Chris Noble, Joey Leslie and Brian Powell. Might as well be Moe, Larry and Curly - in a good way. An agency with personality. LA, New York, Dallas.
Hey, it's Cone. They're in Boston. Need I say more?
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org [Sarah Kerkian]
Cause marketing pros headlined by the indefatigable Susan McPherson. A New Yorker - don't hold it against her.
I call Kansas City based Barkley "The Cause Marketers of the West." They're expertly led by Mike Swenson, the "Socrates of Cause Marketing."
Allison + Partners
If I could pick one person in the cause marketing field to write a book on cause marketing, co-founder Scott Pansky would be my first choice. Yeah, he's that knowledgeable. La La land.
New media specialists that activate people and social causes. Michael Hoffman is one of the brightest guys I know. Based in Chicago.
One of the most knowledgeable people in the field. And she has the books to prove it. Located in the frozen north, Canada.
The Godfather of Cause Marketing. Former St. Jude honcho. Mississippi to Memphis to Boston to New York. Sadly, a NY Giants fan. Maureen Carlson, who founded the cause marketing program at City of Hope, is his consigliere. Dynamite duo that will make sure you don't sleep with the fish.
A local cause marketer that knows how to combine traditional marketing, social media and cause marketing. Chicago native.
Cause marketing expert based in St. Louis. Cause blogger. The man behind Trees for Troops.
Prolific blogger at CauseRelatedMarketing.biz. He's taught me so much I should send him a check....some day. Utah based.
Cause marketing expert on the employee engagement and volunteering side of the business. Canadian.
James Epstein Reeves
Chicago-based expert on corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, and cause-marketing. President of Do Well Do Good.
Local cause marketing pro in Savannah, Georgia. Proud Six Figure Cause Marketing graduate.
A cross between Rocky and Samuel Pepys, Scott has put together several awesome cause marketing programs with Share Our Strength and Tyson Foods. He also started Beyond Cause Marketing. Currently based in Boston, which gives him an edge. But he's a Colt's fan. Boo.
Olivia is a D. C. based cause marketer who's focused on giving businesses the tools and action steps they need to gain a competitive advantage by building a purpose-driven business.
Excellent local cause marketer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Proud Six Figure Cause Marketing graduate.