Getting a Job in Cause Marketing

fishsandwichesA week doesn't go by that I don't get a call or email from four or five people looking for work.  Most of them come from marketing, advertising and public relations. Some are changing careers. Some just can't find work in their chosen fields.  They all see opportunity in cause marketing, and they're right. This post is for all of you, because I know I haven't gotten back to everyone.  And I know--despite your kind assurances to the contrary--that I haven't been as helpful as I would have liked.  This post is also for all the people who haven't contacted me, but I know will.  This will hopefully be a resource to them, as will all your comments, no doubt.

So how do you get a cause marketing job in Boston?  (I say Boston because that's where I live and work but I suspect that what I'm about to say applies to a lot of other cities.  But correct me if I'm wrong.)

Cause marketing jobs aren't so much born as they are made.Very few nonprofits in Boston have staff dedicated to cause marketing.  In addition to my own nonprofit, I can really only think of two other full-fledged cause marketing shops: The Jimmy Fund and Children's Hospital.  The function just hasn't been formalized within many nonprofits--yet.  Of course, you could work for "The mother of cause marketing" at Cone, Inc. on Boylston Street in Boston but that's agency work and is different from doing cause marketing for a local nonprofit.

I suggest you be prepared to pitch a nonprofit on building a cause marketing program for that organization. Of course, very few organizations will hire you just to do cause marketing so be prepared to do other work: communications, major gifts, operations, etc. But pitched correctly cause marketing is a great value-add for any organization, and you should be bolstered knowing that close to zero of the nonprofits out there are doing the work.

It's at this point that I ask that job hunter on the phone or across the table if they are skilled enough to pitch a nonprofit on building a cause marketing effort and experienced enough to execute that plan if they really got the job.  They almost always answer yes, but the real answer is usually no.  This leads me to my next point.

Get experience in cause marketing. Pretty brilliant stuff, eh?  Sadly, (but luckily for some, I guess) only a nonprofit would be dumb enough to hire someone with no experience to run their cause marketing program.  Believe me, I've seen it.  But it never works out so let's not take advantage of someone and waste every one's time, okay?  If you really want to work in cause marketing you should work in the field for a bit so you can learn the ropes and see what's involved.  I hire volunteers all the time who become full-fledged team members, get real assignments, real experience and real recommendations when they apply for real jobs.  But you don't have to come and work with me.  Volunteer with another organization for which you feel passionate.  Ask them if you can help them with cause marketing.  I'll bet you a stack of paper icons it's something they're not currently doing.

If you don't have someone to learn from, examples abound of successful cause marketing efforts.  Just look to nonprofits--of similar size and focus, if possible--and learn from what works for them.  When I first got into cause marketing I had no one to learn from except from what I saw and read.  Fortunately, I live in a City with two strong, local cause marketing teams, Dana-Farber and Children's Hospital.  And it helped that my job was in a hospital too.  I started my own program by applying some of the things that had worked for them.  And you know what? They worked for me too!

I also learned a lot by reading whatever I could get my hands on, including every case study at

But tapping someone else's experience isn't limited to one city.  It could really work anywhere.  There is a very talented young man on Twitter right now, @KyNamDoan, who is working hard to land a job in cause marketing in San Francisco.  He's smart because he knows that he can't just limit himself to cause marketing.  He also knows that while he's very knowledgeable about the field, he doesn't have a lot of experience.  After talking with KyNam on Twitter and then by phone I contacted a colleague at a public hospital in San Fran and asked if he could volunteer with them.  I wasn't surprised by her response.

"He sounds great," she said, "how much experience does he have running cause marketing programs."

"Not sure he has any," I replied.

"Joe, I appreciate the offer, but how does that help me.   I don't need another intern to manage," she said.

"You won't have to manage him," I assured her.  "I will."

I realized I could help both KyNam and another public hospital because I knew exactly what both needed to do to be successful.  The effort would be win-win.  KyNam would get some valuable experience and cause marketing would become entrenched at a key public hospital in San Fran, the home of several important national retailers.  Not a bad deal for me as I would like to establish a national cause marketing program for public hospitals.

I'm still working to get KyNam in the door at that San Francisco hospital. I also think I could teach him cross-country what he needs to do to launch successful cause marketing programs. But the facts remain that most cause marketing jobs are made, not born. To work in cause marketing you need either some applicable experience or be a keen observer of the industry, preferably both. That's it. That's how it happens.

So for all of you who want to get into cause marketing, get started. As my brother, a teacher, likes to tell his students: "You have a wonderful future ahead of you. I suggest you get going."