Cause Marketing Makeover

MakeoverDear Selfish Giving,

The Seattle-based nonprofit I work for raises $12 million a year and our business giving program is about 18 months old.  Cause marketing is one area of our program, but we spend most of our time on sponsorships, grants and general gifts.  Our most successful cause marketing programs to date are working with a bookstore that gives us a percentage of sales and a landscaping company that is encouraging its employees to get fit by donating a buck to us for every mile their employees walk, run and bike.

Many of the businesses in our area have employees that benefit from our services. So when businesses support us they're not just helping another nonprofit.  They're helping their employees and improving local neighborhoods.

Are we on the right track with our cause marketing program?  How can we make it better and raise more money?


Searching for Success in Seattle


Dear Searching,

Congratulations on a good start!  Your nonprofit is raising good money through other means and now has smartly added a business giving program.  Your partnerships with a local bookstore and landscaping company are excellent first steps.  Here are a few suggestions to keep the ball rolling.

First, your greatest advantage is that businesses benefit directly from your organization's services.  Start with these "sweet spot" businesses and leave no stone unturned.  They know who you are and how you help.  These are powerful motivators and will help you close more partnerships sooner.

Second, your work with a bookstore and a landscaping company is great.  Is it possible to "bulk" your efforts to raise more money?  Let me explain.  Can you leverage your good start with one landscaping company to leap-frog to other landscaping companies.  Along the way you produce materials appropriate to that industry and build on the success of previous programs to recruit more and more partners.  Does this work?  You bet it does.  Look at the successful fundraisers just in Seattle that involve restaurants or retailers.  Many of them started with just one business.

Third, it's never too early to start building relationships with large businesses and retailers in your area.  Which retail chain has a lot of locations in your area?  Which businesses are headquartered in Seattle?  I imagine quite a few!  Use your local connections to get in the door, or start with a cold call to the CEO or marketing department.  It all has to start somewhere.  But don't forget what you've accomplished with small businesses and pitch your successes as pilot programs that could be executed at larger stores with many locations.

If you aren't already, you should record all your activities in a shared database like Raiser's Edge, Outlook, ACT! or Goldmine.  It's also important to separate your corporate prospects into categories so that you know which company is appropriate for which opportunity.  You never want to run the risk of having a great opportunity for a company you forgot to remember.

Thanks for writing.