My Guidelines for Cause Marketing Proposals

Over the past few weeks I've gotten a lot of questions about how to prepare and use cause marketing proposals. Here are some answers! First, know when to use them. Proposals are not for first meetings. We greet prospects with paper in hand, but it's blank. It's time to listen and explore. We save our proposals for later after we better idea of objectives.

Be transparent on responsibilities. Everyone wants to know what they have to do. We always make sure partners have a checklist to work from. This list is generally must-do items that only they can execute, like monitoring and motivating cashiers to sell pinups. We handle the rest. The key is for partners to understand what they have to do that's critical to the success of the program that no one else can do except them.

Include everything. Our partnerships tend to have a lot of moving parts (e.g. point of sale, event, cross-promotion, etc.). Make sure this is all broken out and explained in the proposal.

The proposal isn't about you. Save that for the agreement. It's about your partner. So make sure to include the examples, the metrics and the benefits a partner needs to turn your proposal into an agreement.

Be clear on money. How will they raise money? Put it in the proposal. Do you have agreed on amount? Put it in the proposal. What if they don't reach that amount? Put it in the proposal. How long after the promotion will you to wait to receive the money? You get the point.

Learn from others. I share my cause marketing proposals in my Six Figure Cause Marketing webinar. And since I just completed a webinar, and am planning another for September, I'm reserving those for my clients. However, I did find several good examples on the web. The first is from Make-a-Wish/Michigan. This application for a cause marketing program has a lot of the fields you'll need to cover in a proposal. Also, check out the terms and conditions, which you might find useful to your own proposal.

The next one is from Livestrong, which reports they are not currently accepting applications for cause marketing partnerships (must be nice!). Nevertheless, they have an extensive application that will give you a lot of great ideas for your proposal.

Have legal review it. Fortunately, we have a legal team at my nonprofit that can review the language of our proposals, when needed. If you don't have onsite legal counsel, ask a lawyer on your board for help or invest in it. It sometimes seems like overkill, but it's worth it, especially when you're new to cause marketing.

Proposals don't close deals, you do. Too often people think if they wallpaper their contacts with proposals they'll eventually land a sale. That never works. You're the most important piece in presenting and closing the deal with a prospect. The proposal is just a nail. You're the hammerer. That's one reason why you should never ever mail or email your proposals. You need to be there to drive them home.

What other questions do you have about preparing and using cause marketing proposals?

Are QR Codes the Next Big Thing for Cause Marketing?

Imagine this: you visit your local supermarket and are asked to support a local food pantry. You a buy a pinup for a buck. On your receipt is message that you can learn more about the cause you just supported by scanning this barcode with your smartphone.

In your car, before you leave the supermarket parking lot, you run your iPhone over the barcode and a one-minute video airs on a food pantry like no other. It's run out of your local hospital. The pantry started by feeding a few thousand patients every year. In 2009 it fed 75,000 men, women and children. The video closes with an image of a food line that snakes down the hallway and around the corner. It is after all the busiest day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving.


The cool thing is that you don't have imagine this happening. It already is. In a recent tweet Conehead Chris Mann pointed me to this article on how two U.K. groups are using barcodes, RFID tags or QR Codes, as they seem to be most commonly called, to add personal history to donated items. (Note: What a great idea for Goodwill!)

Mashable thinks QR codes may be headed for a breakout. Just yesterday, it highlighted Stickybits, an app I've been playing around with for a couple of months.

Stickybits brings context to real-world objects with its next generation approach to the QR code. The mobile app is primarily a barcode scanner — powered by Red Laser — but it takes the technology into the realm of fun by creating a social and shared experience around any item in the physical world that possesses a barcode.

Download the iPhone or Android application, scan your favorite cereal box, add an item — maybe a related recipe, but any video, photo, audio clip or comment will do — and you’ve just started a digital thread around that item.

Think of the potential for cause marketers to make transactional programs less, well, transactional and more meaningful. When you pick up a mug at Starbucks that supports Product (RED) you can scan the QR code to hear the story of a man who benefited directly from the life-saving HIV drugs RED provides and Starbucks funds.

But that's not all. Supporters can scan the barcode and use their smartphone to record why they support Product (RED), which then can be viewed by the next person who holds the mug up to a smartphone.

Consumers scanning QR codes for cause content will not happen overnight. But adopting QR codes encourages cause marketers to do two important things.

  • It helps build a stronger charitable and emotional connection among causes, businesses and consumers. (QR codes should also make cause marketing critics feel better that CM gifts aren't thoughtless one-offs.)
  • It prepares us for the mobile web. The portable technology that Red Laser represents and the type of mobile content it links to is the future for which we should all be preparing. Don't you agree?

What do you think of QR codes? Do they have a place in cause marketing or in fundraising in general? How would you use them in a program?

How Businesses Can Measure ROI on Cause Marketing

Whenever I work with a business on a cause marketing program, especially point-of-sale--my bread-and-butter program--they usually ask that after helping a great cause how do they really measure what was gained from the partnership. It's a good question, to which there is generally no clear answer, especially for a smaller businesses that can't invest in focus groups or customer research to determine if cause marketing did what it's suppose to do: enhance favorability with consumers and employees and drive sales.

As I work almost solely with small and medium-sized businesses--and not the Walmart's, Starbucks or Chili's of the world--this is how we measure the ROI on a cause marketing program.

Did the campaign achieve its goal? Before the start of each point-of-sale program we work with the retailer to set a goal for each store involved in the program. A successful program that meets or exceeds goal and is greeted with enthusiasm--and few complaints from shoppers--deserves to be called a success.

Coupon redemptions. Most of the pinups and point-of-sale programs we create include one or more coupons. They add value for the shopper and give the business a tangible way to track consumer interest in the program. Most of the coupons on our pinups are good for a return visit--those on our Halloween Town pinup, for instance, weren't good until after Halloween--so they're traffic drivers.

The cross promotion that multiple coupons from several businesses creates can translate into new customers for some stores. A pinup partner of ours was excited to discover that a large number of coupon redemptions weren't from their own customers, but from those of another partner in the same program (each partner has a unique code on their pinup so they can track coupons from other partners).

Take it out of the store. Because our programs are so multifaceted, we offer a lot more than pinups. Our latest program with Phantom Gourmet gives partners added exposure on radio and television, which is added ROI. Halloween Town gave pinup partners a two-day brand land experience that drew 15,000 guests. No cause marketing program should be one dimensional. Not only do integrated campaigns make for better cause marketing but they also deliver better returns. Whenever I meet with sponsors for a post-campaign wrap-up I always have lots to share with them on how valuable the program was to them.

Measure employee engagement. Getting hard numbers on customer engagement on cause marketing is difficult and expensive, but finding out the impact of cause marketing on employees is easier because the audience is smaller and you have direct access to them. Talk to your managers and rank and file employees about the program. Customers aren't the only ones that benefit from cause marketing. It can also boost employee satisfaction and loyalty, which has its own bottom-line benefit.

Did you get your money's worth? I always throw this question out to a partner because as many of you who follow my blog already know, we don't charge anything for our cause marketing programs (nor should you). I usually make this my final point to a partner as I've already established the many rewards of the program. And then I add, "Oh yeah, and it was free." Great ROI, eh?

Cause marketing delivers karma points and ROI for businesses. Even without fancy and expensive measurement tools you can gauge employee and customer interest and reach potential customers through cross-promotions and events. And if you're a retailer you can get this all for free.

Who wouldn't call cause marketing a good investment?

B-to-B Cause Marketing

A lot of people come to my blog for cause marketing advice, but Tricia Wilkerson, Senior Marketing Specialists at Conifer Health Solutions, found inspiration. While my posts didn't uncover exactly what Tricia was looking for, they did get her thinking (she told me afterward) and I'm thankful she took the time to share with me the cause marketing program Conifer created. As a a company that works with over 100 hospitals nationwide, Conifer was searching for a cause marketing program that would put the power of giving in the hands of their customers.

To achieve this goal, Conifer turned to TisBest to produce a custom charity card.

TisBest works by allowing pre-donated funds to be loaded onto charity gift cards, in the same way that traditional gift cards function, which is then “spent” by the recipient on the charity they select.

Tricia explained how Conifer's new charity gift card was smartly executed at an industry event.

We targeted our program launch for our industry’s largest healthcare finance conference in late June - Healthcare Financial Management Association annual conference – attended by approximately 2,000 professionals. Originally located in Nashville, the historic Tennessee flooding in early May nearly cancelled the conference before it was hastily relocated to Las Vegas. This conference crisis, in addition to the emerging crisis for the Gulf states and flooding in Arkansas, reinforced our commitment to forgo the traditional conference giveaways (iPads, Wii, etc.) and booth-supported sales efforts.

We pre-donated $10,000 to be distributed in increments of $5 on each charity card. To physically house the charity card for distribution during the conference, we developed a branded “pocket card” brochure that included details about the cause program and brief information about Conifer. The pocket cards were then distributed to conference attendees by Conifer’s conference street team who explained the concept and answered questions. To keep the focus on charity, we did not include sales pitches or direct people to our booth (we chose not to have a traditional conference presence) – to the surprise of many seasoned conference attendees.

Ironically, the program stood in perhaps starker contrast to other marketing efforts at the conference because of the relocation to Las Vegas (not always synonymous with charity efforts) and the intra-community concern for Nashville due to the flooding. We heard numerous comments about the “freshness” of the program and excitement about the opportunity to spread a little good selflessly. And we’re happy to report that we have already seen cards being “redeemed” for charities.

There's a lot to like about this program, and I have one suggestion that might have made it better.

Cause marketing isn't just for B-to-C. Although I'm pretty guilty of thinking of cause marketing as only B-to-C, it can work for B-to-B as well. B-to-B cause marketing works more like a percentage-of-sales program in that the donation is "seeded" by the company. But with Conifer's gift card the cardholder gets to choose which cause gets the money.

Conifer sent the right message at the conference. They wisely let their charity efforts do the talking and didn't try to push sales. When done well cause marketing distinguishes you from your competitors. While some types of marketing give you visibility that needs to be activated with a sales pitch, cause marketing delivers a favorability that has a built-in persuasiveness that is powerful and independent. You can leave the hard sell back at the office.

Check-in for charity on Foursquare. To gather intelligence on conference attendees active on social media, I would have added a location-marketing promotion for smartphone users to check-in at Conifer's Cares at HFMA on Foursquare and Gowalla. After showing their check-in to a street team member, they'd receive a second charity card. To involve more attendees you could extend the promotion to anyone at the conferences who used the hashtag #conifercares on Twitter or Facebook.

I'd love to hear about some more examples of B-to-B cause marketing. I got Conifer thinking about cause marketing and now they have me thinking about the possibilities for B-to-B cause marketing! What other programs are out there? And what does this mean for my definition of cause marketing? Do we have to adjust it? If so, how?

Why Aren't Cause Marketing Gifts Real Gifts?

Brigid at Actually Giving doesn't think cause marketing gifts are real gifts. "Despite what consumers (and the product marketers) would like to believe, these transactions are simply Not Gifts." I don't buy that. There are just as many people that give as sincerely and generously at the register as there are people that give in other ways. Does a giving, caring, charitable person become less so when they're shopping?

Actually Giving has a few other complaints. One has merit.

A donor can’t choose which charity to support. No one is forcing consumers to support cause marketing programs. It's a simple yes or no. However, I do understand this can be a little more difficult with percentage-of-sales programs. But remember the donation from a percentage-of-sales program generally comes from the company, not from the consumer, and is usually set at a fixed amount before anything is sold. Sure, there's the promise that increased sales will offset the company's donation, but that doesn't always happen. In short, the company is making the donation not the consumer.

Even if a company does see increased sales, it generally won't support a cause with OPM (Other People's Money). Companies know that this isn't the right thing to do. That's why they give millions of dollars of their own money away to charities.

Donors don't get the tax deduction. Good point, Brigid. A good business idea would be to create a card that consumers could carry with them when they shop that would record cause marketing donations for tax deductions.

The world's problems won't be solved increased consumerism. No kidding. Fortunately, many cause products are everyday items like sneakers, paper towels and underarm deodorant. Not sure I want to live in a world without that kind of basic consumerism. Why not leverage it for good?

Buying fried chicken won't help women with breast cancer. The Komen/Kentucky Fried Chicken partnership is a bad example of cause marketing. There are many other good promotions that are making a difference.

Ralph Waldo Emerson set a high standard for his gifts. "The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me."

Brigid has a different standard on what a gift is, and it doesn't include the gifts people make when they support a charity at the register.

I try not to tell people what qualifies as a gift. That's up to them and, ultimately, I'm just happy they gave. I simply say thanks.

**Thanks to Heidi Massey for inspiring me to write this post!

A. C. Moore & Easter Seals Craft Cause Marketing Success


I really like the point-of-sale cause marketing program A. C. Moore and Easter Seals recently completed. Even though it was a national program, it has some good lessons for local cause marketers like me (and probably you).

The breakdown of the program was simple. At A. C. Moore's 136 stores cashiers asked customers to donate a dollar to Easter Seal'sAct for Autism campaign and together they raised over $141,000.

Great results, but here's what makes this cause marketing effort noteworthy.

A special in-store event. During the point-of-sale campaign, A. C. Moore invited customers to a Make & Take crafting event in stores that involved a jigsaw puzzle (for autism awareness). What a great combination of crafting and cause! I was thinking how great it would be if we did an in-store pumpkin decorating event at iParty stores during their October point-of-sale program for us.

How could you enhance your next point-of-sale cause marketing program with an in-store event like A. C. Moore did?

Low traffic stores can produce. Have you ever been into an A. C. Moore craft store? My kids love them. They're busy, but not like a supermarket is or a Walmart or Target. In short, if you plan to raise a lot of money at the register you better be working with motivated employees who can convince nearly every shopper to give. And motivated employees is just A. C. Moore had, especially in their mid-Atlantic states.

Stores averaged over $1,000, but A.C. Moore stores in the Philadelphia and Wilmington, DE region collected more than half of the total funds, with the Wilmington store earning the top fundraising spot.

I often stress the importance of finding chains with lots of foot traffic and lots of locations. However, A. C. Moore proves that how deeply employees connect with a cause may be the most important factor of all.

When you're identifying retailers for cause marketing programs sales skills matter too. Check out this post I wrote a while back on working with quick-lube chains. Despite low foot traffic compared to other type of retailers, quick-lubes raise good money at the register because their employees care (of course!) and are well trained.

In short, although they have fewer customers to ask--some quick-lubes only average 50 to 60 customers a day--they get more yes's than the untrained cashiers who sees more customers.

In A. C. Moore's case, motivation helped craft a big success for Easter Seals.

Thanks to my fellow cause marketer Steve Drake for bringing this great program to my attention!