I've spent many years on the cause side wooing businesses for cause marketing programs. I've often said, "If I ran a business this is how I would choose a cause marketing partner." Here's my advice for business owners looking for a cause partner.
Choose a cause you really care about. I know, this one is a no brainer. But it's a good place to start. I've worked with dozens of businesses and the programs that do best involve businesses that really care for their cause partners. Period. When businesses don't care they'll jump to the next marketing program that comes through the door. I know because it's happened t me. What do committed partners look like? Check out our partnerships with Finagle-a-Bagel, Ocean State Job Lot and iParty.
Choose a cause to which you can make a long-term commitment. The benefits of cause marketing for businesses (i. e. enhanced favorability and increased sales) aren't achieved overnight. Angels only earn their wings and halos after much work.
Choose a cause with some assets. Given the choice between two causes choose the one with a strong financial position, good staff, established events, good donor base, etc. While you may feel the tug to help the less fortunate cause, trust me, you won't feel that way when it comes to creating and executing your first cause marketing program. Save your sympathy for after you have some cause marketing experience and success under your belt. You'll have a better chance of making a difference.
Choose a cause that's proficient with social media. Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare are great enhancers to a traditional cause marketing program. Social media also demonstrates a cause's commitment to communication, technology and innovation, all signs of a cause with a bright future.
Choose a cause that's unselfish. Yep, you heard me right. Most causes are so focused on themselves, their mission and fundraising that they'll never stop to think about your business, your welfare or how a cause marketing program can benefit you. The only hand they'll ever extend is the one to take a check. Choose a cause that's committed to your interests right from the start and treats your business like a real partner. If they don't consider the program a success unless you both succeed, that's the cause you want to choose.
Following your heart and picking a cause you love is a great start to finding a partner. But follow it up with a gut check on your commitment and an analysis of the cause's assets and social media aptitude.
Most of all, beware of causes that are selfish. Partners need to be committed to mutual success. "Together wing to wing and oar to oar." You'll be amazed how far and fast you can go when you pull together.