10 Commandments of Cause Marketing

Having escaped the bonds of traditional philanthropy, cause marketers set forth for the land of milk and honey. During their journey, a tribe among the cause marketers, called Komen, made a great golden [deep-fried] chicken and they worshiped it.

Everyone got really pissed. And they complained of the golden chicken.

To avoid ever having another stupid golden chicken, the cause marketers agreed to these 10 commandments of cause marketing.

#1 You shall know what cause marketing is. You can use my definition of cause marketing, but I point you to others. Be sure to read the comments to my post as well.

#2 You shall not confuse cause marketing with philanthropy, sponsorship or corporate social responsibility. While cause marketing certainly involves giving, philanthropy is not the primary goal. Marketing is. Sponsorship is very similar to cause marketing, but what distinguishes the two are the tactics they employ. I'm not totally sure what CSR is, but it's not cause marketing. What I do know is the former is a strategy that can employ cause marketing as a tactic. Calling cause marketing CSR is like calling a savings account an investment strategy.

#3 You shall choose your cause marketing partners carefully. As we learned from Komen and KFC, not all cause marketing partners are a good fit. Consider carefully with whom you partner or you just might do more harm than good. Take a cause marketer's Hippocratic Oath: "Do no harm." Don't harm your organization, the constituents you serve or your trusted partner.

#4 You shall create cause marketing programs that are win-win. The essence of cause marketing is mutual benefit. Just as nonprofits hope to increase visibility and raise money, for-profits aspire to enhance favorability with consumers and, ultimately, drive sales. If it's not win-win, it doesn't work. And it's not cause marketing.

#5 You shall act like a business person, with a conscience. Cause marketing exists at the intersection of philanthropy, business and marketing. You have to be innovative, results driven and customer-focused like a business person, but giving, human and humane like a philanthropist. A cause marketer must balance herself between value and values.

#6 You shall not limit the benefits of cause marketing to money. Cause marketing is a great way to build your brand, increase your visibility, promote your events, recruit participants for your cause walk, run or ride and identify prospects for major gifts. The list goes on and on.

#7 You shall make your cause marketing program transparent for all to see. Consumers aren't fools. When they support a cause marketing promotion, identify the cause that's getting the money, how much they will receive and a quick blurb on how they will use it. "For every (RED) beverage purchased at Starbucks, five cents will be donated to buy lifesaving medicines for those living with HIV in Africa." Don't hide your giving behind "A portion of the proceeds will be donated to organizations that fight breast cancer."

#8 You shall not expect results overnight. It takes time to build a successful cause marketing program. Most begin with an existing company or corporate leader that you've already worked with. Once you have the credibility of a couple successful programs behind you, it will be easier to create partnerships with new businesses. Training helps.

#9 You shall use social media strategically with cause marketing. Businesses are using social media more than ever. It's important you keep pace with new trends and new technologies to solidify cause marketings place in the corporate marketing mix. 

#10 You shall not over complicate cause marketing. The tactics behind cause marketing aren't brain surgery. KFC's ambitions to make the single largest donation to a breast cancer organization hinges on a simple percentage of sale program (i.e. 50 cents from every bucket).

As cause marketing guru Kurt Aschermann wrote on his own commandments a while back:

Cause-related marketing really isn’t that difficult. Just handle the relationship, deliver what you promise, and provide value to your partner. Best of all, cause-related marketing is fun and exciting. The sooner you master it, the sooner everyone will benefit from its incredible potential.

Unlike Moses, my 10 ten commandments aren't written in stone. Moses didn't have an iPhone so his weren't super easy to change. I'd love to hear what you would edit, add or delete.

Last week showed that cause marketers need some commandments by which they should conduct themselves and execute cause marketing promotions. No one wants to get burned by another golden chicken.

Better Cause Marketing with SEO

Before you read this post you and I have to agree on some basic things.

  1. You should be doing cause marketing. (And not knowing what cause marketing is isn't an excuse.)
  2. If you're doing cause marketing, you should be discussing and promoting your program online via a website or blog. It's good for you, for your corporate partners and for business development.

Now that we're agreed on these two key points, here's my pitch for using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to achieve better cause marketing results.

But first: what is SEO? Wikipedia has a clear and simple definition:

Search engine optimization is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site or a web page (such as a blog) from search engines via unpaid search results [as opposed to paid ads].

We should all be focusing on SEO because people rely on search engines, mainly Google, to find the things they need. It's that simple.

Looking for details on the side effects of the latest prescription the doctor gave you? Google it. Need an address? Try Google. Looking for a company's web site? Don't bother typing it in. Just Google it.

Lately, I've been trying to read as much as possible on SEO and I've found a great teacher in Jason Falls. Last week I stumbled on his post A SEO Experiment: Targeting One Keyword.

In it, Jason sought to own one search term: “Social Media Monitoring Services.”  Targeting these primary keywords he did just that, and goes on to explain how he accomplished it. I suggest you read the post, especially if you're like me and don't know a lot about SEO. It's very helpful.

My takeaway from it is that if I can better target primary keywords in my posts I can own more search terms and potentially drive more traffic to my site. The ultimate goal, of course, is to better promote my nonprofit's cause marketing program, the topic I spend most of my time posting on at Selfish Giving.

If I can do this as well as Jason did, think about the potential for me, my nonprofit and my corporate partners. If my site tops more searches that means more companies may seek out my services. I may sign up more nonprofits for my Six Figure Cause Marketing program, which benefits my nonprofit. More reporters may call to write stories about my program or my corporate partners. In general, when I'm #1 on Google my credibility and opportunities soar.

Now think about those very same benefits and how you, your organization and your partners could reap the rewards. That's powerful stuff.

So I decided to replicate Jason's experiment and try to win my own search term. Like Jason's, my term--"Low Budget Cause Marketing"--wasn't a particularly competitive one. He and I were both riding the long tail of search. But I was convinced by my research that this is a term people are searching on and one I want to own.

Prior to publishing the post, here are the search results for "Low Budget Cause Marketing" on Google.


After writing the post on Headway Themes, which John Haydon tells me is one of the best themes out there for SEO, I ran it through Scribe SEO, which Jason and others have praised, to optimize the content.

Forty-five minutes later my post 5 Tips for Low-Budget Cause Marketing was the #1 search result on Google!


A few hours later it dropped to the third entry--still respectable--and added an additional entry at the #5 spot. But this changes from hour to hour. Check out where I am ranked right now.


It's not enough for your nonprofit to just be doing cause marketing. You should promote your program online and optimize your visibility for search engines.

I recommend a Wordpress blog with a Headway theme and Scribe SEO to accomplish your goals.

Don't hesitate to leave me a comment if you have any questions. You know how to reach me. But if you forget, just type Joe Waters into Google. While my name is a fairly common one, this Joe Waters is the #1 result.