For Direct Relief, Cause Marketing, Disasters are a Game

There's social media, and social networking and then there's social gaming. And they're all growing like crazy and can be used for cause marketing. While my focus is generally on how social media and cause marketing can work together, social gaming is an uncharted area for me. Fortunately, I now have a good guide.

Tony Morain of Direct Relief International (DRI) is a graduate of the Six Figure Cause Marketing program Joanna MacDonald and I teach. But he's taught me a few things on how social gaming can be used for cause marketing. Tony must be a serious Farmville player because he's planting seeds in fertile ground.

eMarketer estimates that 68 million American will be playing social games (online games on which you play with people across the street or around the world) by 2012.

A leader in social gaming is Zynga, which is behind the two games you either love or hate on Facebook: Farmville and Mafia Wars. Combined, these two games have 70 million players. That's a lot of people and a lot of potential donors.

That's what Zynga thought when they approached Direct Relief after the Japan Earthquake. Zynga hoped to replicate what they accomplished after the Haiti Earthquake. Players donated by buying Haiti white corn in FarmVille, a Haitian drum in Mafia Wars, a Haiti fish in FishVille, and a chip package in Zynga Poker. The fundraiser produced a bumper crop, raising $1.5 million.

While a violent video game such as Mafia Wars is an unlikely partner for a humanitarian aid organization, Direct Relief decided to move forward, and never looked back.

Zynga created a virtual fan that players of the game could buy for $5, 100% of which went to Direct Relief. In a matter of weeks, they raised $600,000 for Japan. Moreover, they raised more online awareness for DRI than ever before, leading Direct Relief to be listed in Charity Navigator’s Top Ten Most Viewed Charities. This is impressive considering Direct Relief spends a fraction of what the other nonprofits on the list spend on marketing and advertising.

Mafia Wars is partnering with Direct Relief again to help people in the south recover from the devastating tornadoes that swept through the south earlier this month.

What a fantastic cause marketing program. A few key takeaways for cause marketers.

With cause marketing, the money is in the customer, not in the company. Zynga could have just written a check to charity after the Japan Earthquake, but it most likely wouldn't have been for $600,000. Zynga was smart and responsible to leverage its business model and give players a chance to support Japan.

Brand matters. Zynga sought out a well-known and respected organization to partner with. Good cause brands are like magnets that attract money, partnerships and opportunity. If you want to succeed in cause marketing, build your cause brand and companies will follow.

Cause marketing can work after disasters. I made this point right after the earthquake. Zynga didn't try to profit from the disaster or their players' support for victims. They simply chose an easy and powerful way to involve their business and customers in disaster relief.

Even killers have a soft spot. You'll want to steer clear of offline businesses involving the Mafia, but working with non-traditional partners that want to make a difference is okay. While Komen had its misstep with Kentucky Fried Chicken, fast food chains make excellent partners for cause marketing.

But like Mafia Wars you need to proceed with caution and care, or you reputation will get whacked.

Online Cause Marketing:

This week has been all about doing cause marketing right (Ok, and staying out of court), and I'm thrilled to share with you what another Six Figure Cause Marketing graduate, Julie Nations, has created.

The Ellie Fund right here in Massachusetts has created an online cause marketing program called

The concept is simple: donate $5 and you get coupons worth at least $15 to eight local businesses. The program runs through November 30th.

And your donation couldn't support a better organization. The Ellie Fund makes life easier and better for cancer patients because it helps with the little but important things: transportation, childcare, housekeeping, groceries and meals, all at no cost.

Julie has made supporting G5G15 as easy as buying a pinup in a store. I went to the site and donated my $5. In return I got a special code that gave me access to my coupons. It was that simple. It was so easy I bought three and gave two to friends. is a great idea, but how does The Ellie Fund plan to attract donors to the site? After all, this is one cause marketing program that doesn't have built-in retail foot traffic. Julie has a plan. All 6FCM grads do!

  • All eight retailers are actively promoting the campaign. They have newsletters, dedicated e-blasts, web site banners, plus all their social media tools. The brick and mortar stores have signage and are encouraging employees to talk to customers about the effort.
  • The lead sponsor Lyn Evans/Potpourri boutiques is taking charge. In addition to having in-store coupon books they have signage and 5000 bag stuffers. Each location is selling 100 as fast as possible, with prizes for the most successful store teams.
  • Grass roots event marketing at its best. The Ellie Fund has 10 October events at which to promote G5G15.  Bag stuffers will accompany attendees home and hopefully on to their computers!
  • A Google Grant will spread the word online. The Ellie Fund is a recent recipient, and they plan to use their grant to promote the program.
  • Lots of other things are planned. is giving them any remainder web ad space they have between now and the end of November. Baystate Parents magazine is putting them on the back cover for October. Exhale magazine has given them a quarter page ad. Julie will even be guest blogging on

Congratulations on getting this program started, Julie. I know it will be a big success for The Ellie Fund!

Cone Study to Local Nonprofits: Now is the Time for Cause Marketing

One of the conclusions that can be drawn from the 2010 Cause Evolution Study is that at no point in the history of cause marketing has there been a better time than now for local causes and companies to work together on point-of-sale and cause-related products. Here are the reasons why.

Americans want MORE cause marketing

83%. That's the number of Americans that wish more of the products, services and retailers they used would support causes.

Americans also think that company support for causes is acceptable (88%) and they reward those companies with a positive image (85%) .

Cause  Marketing Differentiates Brands and Drives Sales

The number of Americans that have said they bought a product because it was associated with a cause has doubled since 1993 (41%).

Cause adds value at every turn. 1 in 5 consumers will pay more for a cause-related product. A cause will prompt 61% to try a product they've never heard of. And a whopping 80% of consumers would switch to a brand that supports a cause when price and quality are equal.

Moms & Millennials Rule Cause Marketing, and Are Ruled By It

Moms are the household shoppers and Millennials are the hipster shoppers of the moment and the household consumers of tomorrow. Both are heavily drawn to cause marketing and are fans of the practice. They are the key consumers for many businesses and the donors of today and tomorrow.

Consumers Want Companies to Act Locally

46% of Americans believe that companies should focus on issues that impact local communities. While this is down from 55% in 1993, it still represents the largest area of interest for Americans. National is 37% and global is 17%. I suspect that the declining percentages in local may just reflect what consumers are seeing in the marketplace, which is lots of national (e.g. Komen) and global (e.g. Product RED) cause marketing.

But it's clear from the Cone Study that consumers prefer local cause marketing. 91% said that companies should support an issue in the communities where they do business.

Consumers Prefer Transactional Cause Marketing

Shoppers prefer point-of-sale (81%) and cause-related products (75%). This is great news for local nonprofits and businesses as they both have an easy point of entry for causes and businesses of all sizes.

Frontline Employees are the Key to Cause Marketing Success

70% of Americans said they are more likely to make a donation if an employee recommends it, which makes employees critical to the success of point-of-sale and cause-related products. Employee education and training in causes is key and causes with a local presence have the edge, if they will only take advantage of it.

Hyper-Local is the Future of Cause Marketing

As Cone reports, CauseWorld, Foursquare, Facebook Places and QR codes (ahem, thanks for reading guys) will change the in-store cause marketing experience for consumers. More importantly, the tools and opportunity they offer will be as much available to local nonprofits and businesses as they are to national causes and retailers.


Focus on building your brand. Nothing will be more critical in distinguishing your cause from other causes, both local and national, and building your connection with consumers.

Learn how to do transactional cause marketing. Shoppers prefer point-of-sale and cause-related products, which is great news because these are the two most lucrative tactics for raising money for your nonprofit through cause marketing.

Here's an example of our last transactional cause marketing program.

Here's how you can learn to do transactional cause marketing for a very reasonable price.

Frontline employees are key. Focus on educating and motivating your partner's employees. You might also want to consider using incentives

Check-in with location-based marketing. Not only will LBM be a huge part of cause marketing moving forward, but knowing it will give you an edge over other causes, again both local and national, who are stuck in an offline world.

Start by reading these posts. If I could recommend one location-based service it would be Foursquare. If you have time for a second, Facebook Places. I've written on both.


Choose a cause. One that you really care about and want to share with your customers. Some companies make the mistake of starting with a cause their customers care about. But if your management team and frontline employees don't connect with the cause they won't promote it to customers. Work inside out.

Choose a cause marketing program. Will it be point-of-sale or a cause-related product? Do some research and email me your questions.

Learn how to do transactional cause marketing. Shoppers prefer point-of-sale and cause-related products, which is great news because these are the two most lucrative tactics for raising money for causes.

Here's an example of my last transactional cause marketing program.

Here's how you can learn to do transactional cause marketing for a very reasonable price.

Frontline employees are key. Focus on educating and motivating your employees. Working with your cause partner, you might also want to consider using incentives

Join the location-based marketing bandwagon. It will be worth it. You'll find lots of ways to use LBM in addition to cause marketing. LBM will be a big part of small business marketing moving forward and knowing how to use it will give you an edge in business.

Start by reading these posts. If I could recommend one location-based service it would be Foursquare. If you have time for a second, Facebook Places. I've written on both.

A simple cause marketing promotion for Foursquare is to set up an offer so when customers check-in they get a notice that the sale of a product will benefit a cause.

Cone's newest study is exciting news. The Evolution Study will hopefully spawn a new generation of cause marketing partnerships between local causes and businesses. Their success will be a test of the survival of the fittest. Will you be one of the winners?

3 Reasons to Sign-Up for Six Figure Cause Marketing

The next Six Figure Cause Marketing program begins September 14th. Joanna and I are really excited for the next session! We got a lot of great feedback on the first session back in June and have crafted an even better program. If you're still on the fence on whether to sign up or not, here are three reasons why you should get off it and join us on Tuesday.

This program works. 6FCM is specifically designed for small and medium-sized nonprofits that want to develop lucrative, win-win partnerships with businesses of all sizes. Many people talk about cause marketing, but none of them have the proven program that can bring in six-figure revenue. We do.

If you want to raise money from cause marketing--real money, not just a few bucks from a website that promises you a nickel for every baking pan they sell--the Six Figure Cause Marketing program is perfect for you.

Your nonprofit needs cause marketing. Recently, Liz Strauss pointed me to Do You Pass the Leadership Test in the Harvard Business Review. In the article Bill Taylor argues that "real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special."

Having been around since the early 1980's, cause marketing isn't a new practice. Yet, it's only now trickling down to many smaller nonprofits and businesses. For many local nonprofits, cause marketing could be a powerful differentiator. The zig to all those zags out there.

Zig to Zip. From what I see nonprofits with cause marketing programs are generally more ambitious, progressive and innovative than their non-cause marketing counterparts. Cause marketing burns for technology, social media, advertising, marketing, public relations, etc. Cause marketing is a good thing that leads to good things.

Six Figure Cause Marketing will add to your coffers, help you out-zig your competition, and just might give you some much-needed zip. I hope you'll join us.

Cause Marketing 'Meal Deals' Feed Sick Kids

Our newest cause marketing program is Phantom Gourmet Meal Deals. It teams up a popular Boston TV and radio show with two of our best cause marketing partners, iParty and Ocean State Job Lots.

Here are the highlights.

The program starts this week! At least at iParty stores. It will begin at OSJL stores in July. Both programs will run for two to four weeks. Proceeds support our Food Pantry, which last year fed 75,000 people.

This is our first coupon book. It was surprisingly economical, especially compared to a die-cut pinup with coupons. The coupon book will sell for a buck and includes lots of valuable coupons from area restaurants and businesses.

We broke an old rule. We produced register signs. If you've been through the Six Figure Cause Marketing program you know that signs, posters, pins--not to mention belt buckles, hats and temporary tattoos--are just props for cashiers to hide behind so they don't have to ask the all important question: "Would you like to donate a dollar to help _________?" However, we printed register signs at the request of Phantom Gourmet, who was confident they would further promote the campaign. We felt the signs presented little risk of undermining the program as these two seasoned partners wouldn't use them as a crutch.

Phantom Gourmet added some great value to the program. Phantom Gourmet is a hit TV and radio franchise here in Boston. They will promote the "Meal Deals" program and our partners on their various media properties. This keeps our partners happy and PG welcomes the added exposure they get in iParty and Ocean State Job Lot stores.

If you live in New England be on the lookout for "Meal Deals" at iParty and Ocean State Job Lot stores!

YMCA Puts the "Local" in Hyperlocal Cause Marketing

I visited my local Whole Foods last weekend and saw this cause marketing program at the register. I've seen these passive cause marketing programs before at Whole Foods, but this one was different. It benefited the West Suburban YMCA right down the street from the supermarket. It was the first time I had seen a program at Newtonville Whole Foods benefit a nonprofit in my town.

Fortunately, I had a great contact at the Y, La Tanya Arnold, whom I met at a business event a while ago and turned out to be huge Halloween Town fan. She referred me to to Annmarie Cobb, Director of Annual Giving & Community Relations, who gave me the scoop.

This Whole Foods location is the only store raising money for the Newton Y. It isn't part of a national effort by Whole Foods to raise money for Y's, as I first suspected. Shoppers had a choice of $2 or $5 donations.

Annemarie said the Y hoped to raise between $1,000 and $1,500 during the month of May.

The Y is on the right track working with a supermarket. Grocers have the foot traffic needed to raise lots of money with point-of-sale programs. The only thing missing from this program are more locations to raise more money!

There's another Whole Foods in my hometown just a couple of miles down the road, perhaps they could fundraise for the Y as well?

Like everyone I talk to, Annemarie said cause marketing will be a big focus of her work in the months ahead. But also like everyone else, she's not quite not sure who her next partner will be. That's when having Joe Waters live in your town just might be a good thing!