The Role of Emotion in Cause Marketing

You can use all the facts, figures and statistics you want, but unless you make an emotional connection with people they usually won't give. If by chance they do, it will be go-away money. You'll be as disappointed to receive it as they are reluctant to give it.

Emotion is important to all types of fundraising, including cause marketing. If a cashier asks a shopper to make a donation to UNICEF's Tap Project because "1 in 10 watersheds in this country are polluted", the shopper will shrug and move on. But if the cashier asks for a gift to ensure our "our children have clean, safe tap water to drink" more shoppers will give.

Today, at Marshall's a cashier held up a sneaker-shaped pinup and asked me to donate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I gave, as I always do, but I'm sure the cashier would get a better response from shoppers if she led with an ask that including a reference to the children JDRF helps. "You probably know someone with diabetes. I know I do. We're raising money today for children with the disease. Can we count on your support?"

Still, asking for shoppers to support Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation isn't a bad cause marketing pitch.

Large nonprofit can generally rely on their household names at the register because they've been dipped in emotion (e. g. Komen for the Cure [breast cancer], Salvation Army [kettle bells for the poor and disaster relief], children's hospitals [sick children], and locally here in Boston, The Jimmy Fund [kids with cancer]). Like a favorite dessert at a local bakery, certain nonprofit brands trigger feelings as soon as we see, hear or come into contact with them.

But most nonprofits have poor name and brand recognition. Instead of their names they should lead with their strongest emotional message. Children instead of adults. Puppies instead of animals. Community gardens instead of farms. Play your strongest card first. Of course, nonprofits worry that...

Leaving their name out will hurt their cause. Is promoting a name that no one knows better? When I worked at a Boston hospital with low brand awareness we led with emotion. "Would you like to donate a dollar to help a poor, sick child?" If moved, shoppers got a takeaway about our organization so they could connect the cause with a name. Tools like QR codes will allow nonprofits to connect with shoppers that would otherwise say "What did I just give to?"

Focusing on one emotional issue is lying and damaging to their cause. When I suggest an emotional lead for a cause marketing promotion many nonprofits respond that it doesn't capture the breadth of their mission (e. g. Asking a local animal group to focus on puppies when they help all kinds of animals from cats to birds to reptiles). Your emotional lead is like a vanguard - your best forces that will lead your nonprofit forward. Slicing through consumer apathy and indecision, it turns the former into interest and latter into resolve. A great example of spearheading with emotion is The Jimmy Fund, the fundraising arm of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While the mission of The Jimmy Fund is to raise money to fight adult and pediatric cancers, their cause marketing campaigns lead with emotion: sick kids with cancer.

Choosing a truly sad appeal will turn shoppers off. Think again. Jeff Brooks recently shared research that showed that sad faces are better than happy faces.

People are more sympathetic and give more to a charity when the victim portrayed on the advertisement expressed sadness than when a victim expressed happiness or neutral emotion.... the authors illustrate when and how a sad expression enhances sympathy and giving. Taken together, the findings imply the importance of subtle emotional cues that sway sympathy and giving.

Research is great, but as Jeff explains, experienced fundraisers have been saying this for years: sad faces get more of a response.

While nonprofits need to balance emotion with rational arguments, and avoid appeals that are too severe or prolonged, emotion is a critical element for cause marketing success.

Ignore emotion at your own peril. Without it, consumer just might leave your cause at the register with the rest of the things they didn't buy.

Interested in other ways you can leverage emotional appeals in cause marketing promotions? Check out pages 102, 117-118, 294-295 in Cause Marketing for Dummies, which is available at Amazon.

How to Sell Cause Marketing as a Groupon-Like Promotion

Persuasion occurs through identification. It's one of the basic tenets I live by. It means that we are usually more convincing when we can identify with our prospect's needs, attitudes, interests and beliefs. When your message aligns with needs, the "pain", as it's sometimes called, you get a spark of persuasion. String enough of those sparks together and you have the light and warmth that comes from the flame of a new partnership.

Despite its lofty intentions, cause marketing isn't any different from any other idea, product or service: nothing happens until it gets sold. That's why I'm always looking for new ways to meet the needs of prospects and create a spark.

My flint today is a recent post by Sam Decker on Analyzing Groupon Profitability: 7 Factors for Group Buying Success. It really got me thinking about how Groupon works and its similarities to cause marketing (not to be confused with my earlier post on Groupon as cause marketing, better known as Causeon).

Here's an example of how I plan to use Groupon in future conversations with local businesses to explain and underscore the value of cause marketing.

Me: Are you familiar with Groupon?

Prospect: Sure. We did a promotion with them last year when they weren't as wildly popular as they are now. It went really well. We didn't know what to expect from it, but I think we made money off it. We've been trying to do another offer ever since, but good luck getting anyone from Groupon to call you back. They have plenty of business now.

Me: Well, the cause marketing programs I offer are a lot like Groupon.

Prospect: How so?

Me: Like Groupon, our cause marketing model is focused on helping local businesses like yours attract new customers.

Prospect: I thought you wanted to raise money for your charity?

Me: I do and we will. But cause marketing partnerships are win-win. We both should benefit from working together.

Prospect: I hear that, but Groupon has a huge mailing list of prospective customers for me. You want me to to sell pinups to my customers. How do I get new customers from that?

Me: True, we don't have the huge list Groupon has, but we do have two other retail partners for this program. With you on board, we could potentially recruit more. All these partners will be selling pinups in their stores with your offer alongside theirs [I present exhibit A]. You'll do the same for them.  One of our pinup partners redeemed 700 coupons from pinups that had been sold in another partner's stores. The cross-promotion works.

Prospect: But with Groupon I got this incredible awareness and visibility from the program that really got people talking about my business. That was priceless. Can you do that?

Me: We can actually take it one step further because cause marketing delivers favorable awareness. When customers see that you're involved in a campaign to help a cause, you'll get a lot more than buzz. You'll get positive buzz, the kind that deepens your favorability and credibility. Only cause marketing delivers this.

But the real upside from cause marketing is that while your average Groupon customer may only be as loyal for as long as the expiration date on the coupon you give her, cause marketing can actually sustain customer loyalty. It gives you a competitive edge beyond product and price. The edge is slight when product and price are equal, but an advantage is advantage, right?


By selling cause marketing as a Groupon-like promotion you'll be speaking a language to which a prospect can relate and is responsive. It's a wonderful way to start a conversation.

Selling Local Sponsorships for Nonprofits: Reaching Out to Prospects

suit_executive_head_237912_lNow that you have some strategies for finding qualified prospects, let's look at making some progress at getting some extended face time with new prospects that are neither current sponsors nor aware of your organization. Yep, I'm talking about prospects in that outer ring and making cold calls. Regardless of the channel of communication (e.g. phone, email, in person at say a networking event), the following rules apply:

Your #1 goal is to stay prospect-centric. Always be prepared to adjust your messaging with prospects to meet their needs, interests and goals. You may have just spoken to three prospects this morning that were happy to talk solely about event sponsorship, but can you make the shift when the next prospect wants to talk about your nonprofit's mission? Not all sponsors commit because of the marketing benefits. You have to adjust your pitch accordingly if you plan to keep their interest and preserve their potential as a prospect for sponsorship.

Stand out from your competition. Let's face it: most business people have pretty low expectations of nonprofit types. They expect you to ask for money, and to bring little else to the table except your empty, cupped hands . But if that's all you hear from every fundraiser that passes through your office day in and day out, that gets old. Be different. Ask them about their business. Start by offering them something. Enlighten them on how supporting a cause can deliver a competitive edge and boost employee morale, among other things. Show them you know a little about their industry and competitors. You know what the average fundraiser does (that person may even be you!), step out from that mold and you'll get the attention you want and deserve.

Don't give them an excuse to say no. This is my pet peeve. Mailing prospects reams of information. Not calling people back when they ask you to. Designing sponsorship packages with little creativity and even less flexibility. These are all excuses (no, good reasons) for prospects to say no. You never want to get to a point with a prospect that she gives you a flat-out "no." Psychologically it's a big threshold for a decision maker to cross and when they do, well, they generally mean it (Think of mom: "No means no!"). So why would you want to do something stupid that will hasten a a negative, perhaps fatal response? Think about it.

Persuasion is incremental. Dude, these things take time. It's not going to happen with one call, or one email, or one meeting. You need to plan for sponsorship success and how each interaction will bring you a closer to your goal. So if the objective of that first call isn't to close the sale, what is it? It's a question you should know the answer to before you pick up the phone. Then get busy with steps 2 through 22.

With all the uses of technology these days, the phone is still probably the first thing you pick up to contact prospects. Here are some of the most common questions I get about working the phones.

Should I leave a message? Depends on who on my team you talk to. @holtmurray very rarely leaves a message. He'll call and call until someone picks up. He thinks leaving a message just gives a prospect a reason not to pick up their phone the next time they see your number. I, on the other hand, like to leave a message. A quick one that includes info about why I'm calling and a couple benefits to him or her. I think a message softens up the prospect so when you do get them on the phone it's not a total "cold call." They know why you're calling and, if you've left a good message, may be neutral or mildly inclined to your proposal.

How should I deal with gatekeepers? Make them your friends. They are valuable allies in getting to the prospect. It can be a long, hard slog to success without them. Another tip: they want something too. Sometimes it's something that will save them from the boredom of their jobs. Other times it's talking to someone who has similar challenges in their life (juggling work and kids, a long commute, difficult roommates, etc.). Yet another is for someone from all the organizations they work with to remember them--and not just the boss--around the holidays! Sending over a half-zip sweatshirt with our logo on it to a prospect's assistant has gone a long way in securing a new friend and ally. As Malcolm X said, "By any means necessary!"

When should I stop calling? If they are bonafide prospects, never. This goes back to never giving a prospect a reason to say no. As long as you never drive the prospect to the point that they tell you to get lost, you should be able to call from time to time to pitch them on new programs, to follow up on emails, to invite them to events, etc. We just recruited a prospect that we had been calling for five years! Qualifying them as a real prospect and being persistent paid off!

The phone is the most popular way to reach prospects. But email is another great communication tool and  I have some suggestions for using that as well:

Keep it short. There's nothing worse than a long email. Keep it to a 150 words or less. Think about it: how did you feel the last time you opened an email and had to scroll down to finish reading it? Did you want to get another email from that person?

Bullet everything. Attach nothing. To make it easier to scan your email for key info, bullet, bold, underline the things you want your prospect to read and remember. Also, everything you want your prospect to see should be in the email itself, rather than risking putting anything vital in an attachment. That doesn't mean you can't use attachments, just make sure what's in them is not vital to the goal of your email (FYI: I attach things all the time, but it's additional, not important, information).

Use email to accelerate and entrap. Like you, I use email to get information to people quickly. For our annual dinner gala that I'm selling sponsorships for right now, I threw away the sponsorship letters years ago and rely on emails and the phone to recruit sponsors. In addition to accelerating the process, email also entraps when prospective sponsors tell me on the phone they haven't received the info. "Really? Well, I'm sending it to you right now. Is it in your inbox so you can open it and I can walk you through the sponsorship?" Yep, I love email. It's like an electronic speed trap for prospects. And like we use to say when we were teens, "You can beat the cop car, but you can't beat their radio!"

The next stop in our sponsorship series will look at how to craft winning presentation for prospects. Faceless phone calls and emails are history. It's show time.