CauseTalk Radio Ep04: Bikinis That Give Back & Cities that Give Big

In this episode of CauseTalk Radio, Megan and I talk with Geoff Livingston, author and Vice President at

We discuss a new Case Foundation report on Giving Days, and the success small nonprofits in Washington D. C. have had with the program. Up to 40 U. S. cities may roll out Giving Days in 2012.

We also talk about The Nature Conservancy's partnership with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue that has created a firestorm of controversy - especially among staffers - for the country's leading environmental organization.



I generally don’t recommend QR codes for web pages. You might as well use a plain old hyperlink. But if you’re planning to listen to CauseTalk Radio on the go, scan the above code with your mobile device and you’ll always have a direct link to our podcasts on iTunes.


Case Foundation Report: How Giving Contests Can Strengthen Nonprofits and Communities Nature Conservancy Faces Flap Over Fundraising Deal to Promote Swimsuit Issue SI Swimsuit Issue/ Sale Benefitting The Nature Conservancy

Review: Cause Marketing Through Social Media

Kate Olson and Geoff Livingston have released a free e-guide to Cause Marketing Through Social Media that should be on the virtual bookshelf of every cause marketer's library. You can bet it's on mine. Kate and Geoff's approach to online cause marketing is comprehensive and unique. Yes, I talk about online cause marketing here on SG, but my focus is generally on online programs that are an extension of traditional offline cause marketing. Good stuff, but Kate and Geoff treat social media as a unique platform for cause marketing. And a very new one at that. That's why I'm learning from them just like all of you.

While the e-guide is geared toward companies, a lot of it applies to nonprofits as well. Here are just a few of the points that resonated with me.

Have you cultivated an online community? So many of us want to do online cause marketing, but do we have the engaged online community to support it? It takes time to turn a fan base into a community that responds to calls for support and action. This is something that came up last week with The Ellie Fund and It's not enough to just put something out there on the web. If you launch an online cause marketing program but no one is there to interact with it, will it make a difference?

Kate and Geoff use the example of Pedigree Adoption Drive, which has over a million Facebook fans. When Pedigree whistles for its fans they respond because their community is present and engaged.

Can you sell the campaign in your company [or nonprofit]? The e-guide has an excellent section on selling online cause marketing to the boss, including starting with a small pilot project to get the green light on bigger projects. Kate and Geoff also offer some valuable responses to common objections to cause marketing programs. One objection I would add--because it still comes up a lot--is "Do we really need to be involved in cause marketing?" Fortunately, we have recent and powerful evidence to support our case thanks to the Cone 2010 Cause Evolution Study, which shows the value of cause marketing, especially for key consumers likes millennials and moms.

What campaign format will deliver the most social and business impact? This section is useful because it's like taking a class: Online Cause Marketing 101. From Crowdsourced Voting Contests to Issue Awareness Campaigns, you get definitions and examples of the most popular online campaigns.

Case Study: Tyson Foods Hunger Relief. Toward the end of the e-guide, Kate and Geoff profile the online cause marketing program Pledge to End Hunger/WeCanEndThis that my friend and fellow cause marketer Scott Henderson developed.

This program is especially important for local nonprofits and businesses because it had:

  • Online and offline features, a likely direction for local nonprofits and businesses.
  • In-kind contributions of food to needy areas around the country, illustrating that not all campaigns need to involve money, but they must address a need and have value. This should inspire organizations of all sizes that they can make a difference and help in variety of ways.
  • An important message for businesses of all sizes: check your ego at the door and put the spotlight on the cause. The reflection directed back at you will be worth the wait.

These are just a few of the things I found compelling about Kate and Geoff's Cause Marketing Through Social Media. You should read the e-guide for yourself.

With plenty of sidebars, graphs and illustrations, this 26 page e-guide is an easy read and a great reference to what surely will be the next great frontier of cause marketing.

Cause Marketing Cynicism is a Good Thing

Geoff Livingston has written a thoughtful post on the growing cynicism of cause marketing and how companies need to check their motives before they dive in.

As cause marketing continues to accelerate as a hot trend, many companies will enter the foray, not because their culture would make such a move intelligent, but because the marketers think it’s a good idea. . . . In reality, they will be committing the same mistake many marketers made when they attempted to brand their products green. The ensuing greenwashing backlash is still escalating as more and more companies try to enter the sustainable marketplace or differentiate from competitors with a dash of ecosense.

I agree with Geoff that we all, companies included, need to tread carefully. But I also believe this cynicism for cause marketing will lead to a better industry that is more responsible, accountable and successful.

Causewashing won't keep companies clean for long. Consumers are already getting smart to which campaigns are legit. I'm getting more feedback from partners that shoppers are asking questions about where the money goes, how much of their donation supports the cause and how the retailer is supporting the nonprofit beyond OPM (other people's money).

More companies will try cause marketing for the right reasons. They won't have a choice. The upside of doing the right thing is so important, so valuable and so expected by consumers that companies will have to do cause marketing right. This isn't traditional marketing, folks. This is marketing that impacts the greater good. That doesn't mean companies will always be successful or rewarded, but the goal will be to be more sincere, more authentic. They'll be no room for bad in good.

The appeal of cause marketing will broaden to other businesses. I'm really excited about this because cause marketing has been dominated for too long by the bigger companies and nonprofits. Not anymore. There's too much to be gained from cause marketing for everyone, and consumer cynicism will lead the charge for better programs and higher standards. The resulting success will make cause marketing the must have ingrediant in the marketing mix of all businesses, not just the biggest.

The biggest threat to the spread of cause marketing isn't cynicism but inertia. Geoff's right: "We need to elevate this conversation so that more companies and communicators engage in cause marketing with real socially responsible motives." But we also can't paralyze businesses, especially the smaller businesses that are just climbing aboard, with doubts that they can't be good cause marketers because they don't have the marketing know-how of  Seth Godin or a heart of gold like Mother Teresa.

What these businesses need is the resolve of Thomas Edison who tried some 700 times before he invented the working light bulb. They also need our encouragement that the road to cause marketing success is not a dimly lit and treacherous path. Or the light bulb that went on in their head about cause marketing to begin with will quickly go out.