10 Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2015 [SLIDESHARE]

I’m back with my annual list of 10 Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2015. As always, it was a great year for cause marketing. 

The 10 Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2016 Is Out!

There was a noticeable spike in company-led cause marketing promotions compared to last year. Like a game of Where’s Waldo? I had to ask: “Where are all the great nonprofit cause marketing programs?” Of course, they are always there, but the advantage went to companies – at least in 2015. Perhaps nonprofits will mount a comeback in 2016.

Last year was the first time I did a full blog post and Slideshare for my Ten Best. The combo was a hit with nearly 22,000 views and counting.

Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2014

Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2013

Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2012

My goal each year with my picks is the same: to inspire you to create interesting and effective cause marketing promotions that raise gobs of money for your cause. This list is just a start. You can find thousands more examples on my Pinterest boards.

Which of my picks is your favorite? Did your favorite promotion make my list, or did I pass it over? Use the comments section or social media with the hashtag #causemarketing to let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you!

Pay-it-Forward Pizza Feeds Homeless with Slices & Sticky Notes

mason wartman

Promotion: Pay-It-Forward Pizza

Partners: Rosa's Fresh Pizza, Philadelphia's Center City

Why I Picked It: My roots are in local cause marketing, and there is no better example of it than what Mason Wartman has done at Rosa's Fresh Pizza, a single location pizzeria in Philadelphia.

When Megan Strand and I interviewed Mason in early 2015, he had become a media darling for his efforts to feed the homeless in his neighborhood. He even appeared on the Ellen Show!

Like all great ideas, Mason's is simple but powerful. When customers buy a slice of pizza they can buy another for someone in need. Rosa's walls are lined with sticky notes and well wishes that the needy and homeless can redeem for a free slice.

Rosa's has given away thousands of slices in a neighborhood that needs all the extra dough it can get.

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep114 

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Take that Critics: Consumers Like Donating at the Register

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Bread Company Gives Ex-Cons a Second Chance to Make Dough

dave's killer breat

Promotion: Second Chance Employment

Partners: Dave's Killer Bread, Dave's Killer Bread Foundation

Why I Picked It: We could all learn a lot from Oregon-based Dave’s Killer Bread. Dave’s baked passion in right from the start. The bread company’s founder, Dave Dahl, spent 15 years in prison before founding the brand, which has grown to over $50 million in sales and employs 300 people.

Dave never forgot where he came from and the chance he got to go straight. That’s why 30% of Dave’s employees have criminal backgrounds. Eager for other companies to adopt their smart and compassionate practices, Dave’s hosts an annual Second Chance Summit for local companies. Nationally, Dave’s is creating a Second Chance Playbook to share with businesses.

Backed by its passion for “second chances,” Dave’s cause marketing includes promotion on bread packaging and may in the future offer a percentage-of-sales program to fund the new Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation. Dave’s has accomplished great things and their cause marketing is sure to be a hit. As a bread company, they know that the right ingredients matter. That’s why they started with passion.

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep134 

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Forget Zombies, Get Ready for The Goodpocalypse

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DICK's Sporting Goods Scores with Sports Matter

dick's sports matter

Promotion: Sports Matter

Partners: DICK's Sporting Goods, DICK's Sporting Goods Foundation

Why I Picked It: In March 2014, DICK’s Sporting Goods and the DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation announced a $25 million multi-year commitment to support youth athletic programs including donations to and sponsorships of local sports teams. At the same time, DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation launched Sports Matter, a proprietary crowd-funding platform that lets youth sports teams raise money from supporters and earn a matching grant through its foundation.

184 teams joined the crowdfunding program representing 35 states and 35 unique sports. They were offered support on how to use the online fundraising from GOODcorps and the teams raised more than $2 million in donations during the five-week fundraising campaign. With DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation matching grants, $4.6 million reached youth sports teams facing severe financial challenges.

As a 2015 Halo Award winner for best social media campaign, Sports Matters has been a home run for DICK's, its foundation and local sports teams. DICK’s success also means we'll likely see more propriety crowdfunding platforms from businesses who want to matter more. That will be a win for everyone.

For More Information: 2015 Halo Award Best Social Media Campaign

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: 6 Fundraising Platforms That Have Disrupted Charitable Giving Forever

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Starbucks' Unpopular 'Race Together' Was Actually Venti-Goodness 

race together

Promotion: Race Together

Partners: Starbucks

Why I Picked It: I bet you're surprised by this pick! We could debate the merits of Starbucks' Race Together - the coffee giant's effort to start a conversation about our troubled race relations all day - but I bet we can all agree that it wasn't a success. The promotion had plenty of critics, for sure.

Still, as cause marketer Phil Haid pointed out in this post, "Rather than scowl at CEO Howard Schultz's bold attempt to further the race dialogue, we should admire his tenacity and modern corporate leadership."

I agree with Phil. Starbucks has always run far ahead of the pack. Race Together is proof that you can be first and not be a winner. It's easy to fault the execution of the program at stores and laugh about baristas chatting up customers about race relations. But the underlying values of the campaign advanced a basic, powerful truth: red, black, white, yellow or brown we are better Americans when we work together. Thank you, Starbucks.

For More Information: Starbucks's Race Together: Why The Naysayers Have It All Wrong

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: The Starbucks Guide to Cutting Edge Cause Marketing

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White Castle Ignites Craving for Giving

white castle

Promotion: The Castle Shares Program

Partners: White Castle, Autism Speaks

Why I Picked It: White Castle is a 94-year-old restaurant chain best-known for its iconic “castle stores” and tasty burgers on a signature square bun. Another area of renown for White Castle is cause marketing. I first wrote about White Castle in 2010 when the company launched a specialty candle to benefit Autism Speaks.

But this just wasn’t any candle. It was an onion - and hamburger-scented candle that “Cravers”- fans of White Castle - loved almost as much as the burgers. The big winner was Autism Speaks, which has received $100,000 from sales of the candles.

In addition, White Castle has hosted an annual register fundraiser that asks consumers to donate $1, $3, or $5 to Autism Speaks. In 2015, the fundraiser raised $909,000, a 48% increase over the previous year. In total, White Castle has raised $3 million for Autism Speaks since 2010.

“The credit goes to our employees and customers,” said Jamie Richardson, vice president for White Castle, when I interviewed him in August. “Our customers are very generous, and our employees are always finding new and interesting ways to support the campaign.”

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep132

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: How Wendy's Uses Coupon Books, Frosties to Raise Millions for Adoption Services

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Columbia Sportswear Is Using Cause Marketing To Blaze A New Trail

find your park

Promotion: Find Your Park

Partners: Columbia Sportswear, National Park Foundation

Why I PIcked It: Park rangers have saying about the people they meet in the national parks: they're newlyweds or nearly deads! Let's just say you won't find many young people in the parks. You also won't find much diversity. When a vacationing reporter came across a group of Latino bloggers camping in a park he was so surprised he wrote an article on it for the New York Times

Those bloggers weren't there by chance. They were sent there by Columbia Sportswear. In a 2013 partnership with REI and the National Park Foundation a group of Latino bloggers were immersed in a week-long trip to national parks. The bloggers' reports on their experience generated over 60 million impressions. 

Fast forward to 2015, and the partnership now includes Subaru, Aramark and Southwest Airlines. The Find Your Park outing is now the grand prize of a popular contest for diverse millennial influencers that includes bloggers, YouTube phenoms, business owners and TV personalities.

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep136

If You Liked This Promotion You'll Like: How Travelocity is Helping Do-Gooders Travel for Good

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Petitti's Garden Centers Supports Cleveland Clinic's Children's Hospital

petitti garden center

Promotion: Lend a Hand

Partners: Petitti Garden Centers, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Cleveland Clinic

Why I PIcked It: Yet another great example of a local cause marketing program is Cleveland Clinic's with Petitti Garden Centers, which has nine stores in northeast Ohio.

Before 2013, the register program in Petitti stores raised $9,000. Two years ago, Cleveland Clinic made a point to visit each store to share with employees the story of one young patient in the children's hospital. In 2013, the fundraiser quadrupled its results and raised $40,000!

In 2014, Petitti convinced lawn and garden giant Scotts Miracle-Gro to match customer donations. The program grew like a weed and raised $100,000 in 2014.

In 2015, thanks to Petitti's and Scotts, the program raised $165,000.

Petitti and Rosa's (profiled above) make a powerful point. Cause marketing isn't just for big nonprofits and businesses. Passion, education and persistence can produce big returns for nonprofits and companies of all sizes.

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep108

If You Liked This Promotion You'll Like: 8 Reasons the Doctor Recommends Cause Marketing for Hospitals 

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Doritos Chips In to Help LGBT Youth

doritos supports lgbt youth

Promotion: There's Nothing Bolder Than Being Yourself

Partners: Doritos, It Gets Better Project

Why I Picked It: I didn't pick this cause marketing promotion because of the money it raised. For every $10 donated donors received a bag of rainbow chips. Doritos raised around $100,000 for It Gets Better Project, an organization that aims to inspire hope in young lesbian, gays, bisexual and transgender youth facing harassment. For a large, national brand like Doritos, which is owned by Frito-Lay, this isn't a huge pile of chips.

I picked the promotion because I love when brands take stands on important issues. That's why Starbucks' Race Together is on my list! Agree or not agree with their position, I admire that Doritos was willing to piss off more than a few people - and make even more really happy. Conservatives struck back with protests and a hashtag campaign #BoycottDoritos. But they couldn't break the chip!

A second reason I picked the campaign is because it's a great example of Causejacking, when a brand rides the wave of a cause's popularity. Just two months earlier, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. As proponents and opponents exchanged jabs and blows, Doritos shared a rainbow that got everyone's attention.

For More Information: Doritos Just Got A Very Queer Makeover

If You Liked This Promotion You'll Like: How Causes Can Inject Themselves Into Breaking News and Get Noticed

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Orvis Fights Canine Cancer with Dog Photo Contest

orvis cover dog photo contest

Promotion: The Orvis Cover Dog Photo Contest

Partners: Orvis, Morris Animal Foundation

Why I Picked It: One of my goals with this year's list was to include a great digital campaign that had a positive impact for both partners. My CauseTalk Radio co-host, Megan Strand, pointed me to this campaign, which won a 2015 Halo Award.

Sporting and dog products retailer Orvis and the Morris Animal Foundation created The Orvis Cover Dog Photo Contest to deepen customer engagement and awareness. Participants submitted a picture of their dog to the contest and then invited friends and family (through social media) to give their photo some doggie love. Each vote cost $1 with a $5 minimum vote/donation. 

Here's the impressive part. More than 100,000 photos were submitted. Orvis added tens of thousands of customers to its mailing list. Morris raked in 26,540 new donors - 10 percent of whom have already made a second gift. 

To date, $1,085,898 has been raised and 11 major colleges and universities are conducting research funded by monies gained through this program. By partnering with Orvis, Morris Animal Foundation has created six programs, including one to train scientists, two to improve cancer diagnoses, and three that developed improvements in cancer treatments.

For More Information: 2015 Halo Award Best Environmental/Animal Campaign

If You Liked This Promotion You'll Like: How Activists & Companies are Using Petitions to Stand Together for Good

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GameStop Quadruples High Score, Raises $1.2 Million for Make-A-Wish


Promotion: Second Annual Make-A-Wish Donation Program

Partners: GameStop, Make-A-Wish

Why I Picked It: The charitable work GameStop does is pretty incredible. I've witnessed their work firsthand as my 13-year old son is a huge fan of the brand. If you've ever been to a GameStop you know that they are small stores - usually just 6,000 square feet. Yet they bring amazing firepower to raising money for good causes. In 2015, they raised money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and donated products to Ronald McDonald House Charities

But it was GameStop's cause marketing promotion with Make-A-Wish that got them onto my 2015 "Best" list.

In 2014, the retailer raised $300,000 for Wish with simple checkout program. A tidy sum, for sure. But in 2015 they quadrupled this number and raised $1.2 million for the wish-giving charity. They did it by pulling out all the stops. They leveraged social media, they appointed employee abassadors to oversee the execution of the fundraiser and they incentivized customers. In short, they developed a strategy to get every customer to give. And it paid off in a BIG way for Make-A-Wish. 

You should listen to the interview Megan and I did with with Matt Hodges, Vice President of Public & Investor Relations at GameStop. It was one of the best interviews and Megan and I did in 2015. You'll learn a ton!

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep127

If You Liked This Promotion You'll Like: Call of Duty Endowment Enlists Gamers, Retailers for Mission to Help Vets