10 Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2016 [SLIDESHARE]

Welcome to my annual 10 Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2016. As always, it was a great year for cause marketing. 

My 10 Best posts are by far the most popular piece of content I’ve ever published on my blog – or anywhere else for that matter. Combined these annual posts have over 50,000 views.

Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2015

Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2014

Best Cause Marketing Promotions of 2013

My goal every January remains the same: to inspire you to create interesting, effective and lucrative cause marketing promotions that transform your cause and the world. 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!

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Promotion: Red Nose Day

Partners: Walgreens, Red Nose Day

Why I Picked It: I picked this promotion for several reasons.

First, it’s one of a few cause-related promotions that’s been imported into the United States. Over the past three decades Red Nose Day has raised over $1 billion in the United Kingdom. It’s now set to take the states by storm.

Second, the fundraiser was a huge success, raising $18 million dollars through the sale of over 12 million red noses at Walgreens stores.

Third, Walgreens made fun a priority in this promotion. Not only were they selling goofy red noses to customers, but they had Red Flair Fridays when employees could show their support with red scarves, hats, etc.

Walgreens also devoted shelf space to selling red swag items that also benefited the charity. This promotion lived up to its tagline: Have fun. Raise money. Change lives.  

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep167

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Retailers Have a New Option. DipJar is a Donation Box for Credit Cards

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Promotion: Fundraiser for the Planet

Partners: Patagonia, Grassroot Environmental Organizations

Why I Picked It: Last year, I admired outdoor retailer REI for closing its stores so its employees and customers could #OptOutside. We saw what a retailer could do when it closed its stores on Black Friday. But what could they could accomplish for a cause when they kept them open? 

We found out the answer last month when Patagonia kept their stores open on Black Friday and donated 100% of sales toward saving the environment. Thanks to the purchases of their customers, they raised $10 million! This was five times more than they expected to raise.

The best thing is that the money will go to smaller environmental groups. These organizations are doing outstanding work but are not well known and often cash-strapped.

In times when others are moving to the rear in the fight against pollution and climate change, Patagonia is standing firm on the front lines.

For More Information: Patagonia Had $10 Million In Sales On Black Friday And Is Donating Every Cent To Save The Planet

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: How Columbia Sportswear is Using Cause Marketing to Blaze a New Trail

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Promotion: PurposeFULL

Partners: Arby's, Share Our Strength

Why I Picked It: As the second largest quick-serve chain in the world, Arby's is making the most of its ability to change the world. I first learned about Arby's cause marketing at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago last year where they talked about the $15 million they've raised for Share Our Strength since 2011. 

But this is just one part of Arby's transformation into a PurposeFULL company.

  • Arby's has raised $77 million for youth-related causes over the past 30 years.
  • Arby's has reduced energy consumption in its restaurants by 15.2% and conserved 7.4 million through an irrigation pilot program.
  • Arby's is on track to serve eggs from only cage-free hens by 2020.
  • Arby's is a good place to work and was named one of the best and brightest companies to work for in 2015.

When it comes to giving back and social responsibility, Arby's is an industry leader. No one would dare ask: "Where's the beef?"

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep179

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: How This Texas DQ Franchisee is Fighting Childhood Hunger

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Promotion: : Vodka for Dog People

Partners: Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Emancipet

Why I Picked It: Just as Tito’s vodka is handmade, its cause marketing is homegrown. When Tito’s founder Bert Butler started making his vodka his faithful dog was always with him. There were also plenty of stray dogs in the neighborhood and Bert and his team cared for them too.

Over time, Tito’s formed a partnership with Emancipet to care for the dogs. It was a natural outgrowth of Tito’s love for dogs. 

Through Tito’s cause-related website Vodka for Dog People, the company sells dog and human products, such as leashes, t-shirts, and toys, bearing Tito’s logo. The proceeds go to Emancipet.

However the real genius of Tito’s efforts is its work with bars and liquor stores nationwide to host Yappy Hour fundraisers for Emancipet. Brilliant!

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep194

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: How This Pet Hospital Chain Used POS to Raise $2.5 Million for Charity

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Promotion: : Food Lion Feeds

Partners: Food Lion, Feeding America

Why I Picked It: Most of the cause marketing I see in supermarkets is pretty awful. They're either engaged in low visibility programs that don't register with shoppers, or they're doing so many register fundraisers every month that shoppers have hardened themselves and stopped giving. Worse still, this impacts consumer giving at other businesses as shoppers get used to saying "No" to charity.

A couple years ago, Food Lion was an example of what's wrong with supermarket cause marketing. Now, the chain is a model for how supermarkets can launch successful fundraisers that are also popular with shoppers.

For Food Lion, it started by reducing their register fundraisers to just one a year. They also gave shoppers the choice between making a flat donation or rounding up to the nearest dollar.

In addition to their annual POS program, they also launched purchase-triggered fundraisers, programs with vendors and got employees involved with the Great Pantry Makeover.

To top the year off, Food Lion held its first annual awards event, The Feedys. The event honored those who share the company's commitment to ending hunger and to meeting its goal of donating 500 million meal commitment by 2020. To date, Food Lion has donated 180 million meals.

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep186

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: A New Report Reveals How Checkout Charity Can Continue to Thrive

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Promotion: Giving Big for Kids

Partners: Big Lots, Nationwide Children's Hospital

Why I Picked It: I have a saying that companies like "OPM." That's short for Other People's Money. While some companies are great about raising money from customers, corporate giving - the dollars that actually come from the company's checkbook - has been falling for a generation. On average, companies give less than one percent of their pre-tax earnings to charity. 

That's what makes Big Lots mind-blowing $50 million pledge to Nationwide Children's Hospital so incredible. It's the largest corporate donation ever specifically devoted to a pediatric and adolescent behavioral health program.

This doesn't mean that Big Lots isn't letting there customers in on the action, because they are. When Megan and I interviewed Big Lots on CauseTalk Radio, they were celebrating the $2.2 million dollars they raised from customers in the fall of 2015. That turned out to be a warm-up. In the fall of 2016 they raised $3.6 million from consumers at over 1400 stores.

Big Lots just isn't about big deals. The company and its customers make big donations, and have big hearts.

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep185

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

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Promotion: Operation Chihuahua

Partners: Virgin America, Various Animal Shelters

Why I Picked It: Okay, this one is a bit of a lovefest. I love dogs, especially tiny dogs as I own a 7-pound Yorshire Terrier. Over the past year I’ve been noticing more just how poorly people treat animals, especially dogs (aka man’s best friend!).

When I discovered this promotion I was just so happy that someone was literally giving dogs the first class treatment they deserve. For several years now, Virgin America's Operation Chihuahua has been airlifting tiny dogs from California (where Chihuahuas are as common as actors) and flying them to new homes in New York City.

This year, Virgin tossed another bone into the mix. With every booking at VirginAmerica.com on Cyber Monday, the airline donated ten dollars to three animal shelter partners. 

The backbone of Virgin’s program is kindness and respect for ALL living things, even the smallest ones. We need more of that in our world.

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep193

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: How Boston's Top Nonprofits Got Their Butts Kicked & What We Can Learn From Rabbi Chaim

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Promotion: Make Safe Happen

Partners: Nationwide, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Safe Kids Worldwide

Why I Picked It: I love Make Safe Happen because it represents a new direction for brands that want to lead with "cause content" as opposed to other forms of cause marketing like point-of-sale fundraisers and employee volunteer programs.

In the case of Nationwide, they've created a comprehensive content platform that aims to keep kids safe from everything from furniture tip-overs to overdoses to home fires. In addition to a website, they also launched a convenient mobile app and hosted safety events across the country. Like their nonprofit partners, Nationwide Children's Hospital and Safe Kids Worldwide, Nationwide took safety seriously. Heck, they acted like new parents and took every precaution. 

Make Safe Happen is a go-to resource to parents and caregivers that builds respect and engagement for Nationwide. It's also a model to other companies that want to be the consumers' trusted advisor. Watch for more branded "cause content" platforms in 2017. 

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep171

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: How Dominos Fights Home Fires with Box Toppers, Free Pizza Delivery

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Promotion: Month of Giving

Partners: Jersey Mike's, 180+ Charities Nationwide

Why I Picked It: With 1,500 stores in the U. S., Jersey Mike’s is a sub sandwich chain on the upswing. And cause marketing is playing a big role in its success.

Last spring, Jersey Mike’s hosted its 6th Annual Month of Giving and raised more than $4 million. Since its inception in 2011, Jersey Mike’s annual fundraiser has raised more than $12 million for causes.

The money is raised through a month-long register fundraiser and a Day of Giving when 100 percent of sales nationwide go to charity partners

The key to the program is Jersey Mike’s local focus. Each store owner can pick his or her favorite cause to support. This year’s fundraiser supported 180 nonprofits.

“Store owners know their community and which nonprofits they should support,” said Dave Altmann, Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Jersey Mike’s. “More importantly, they know which nonprofits will really get behind the program.”

Jersey Mike’s cause marketing efforts also help corporate identify the best franchisee owners. “In meeting with potential franchisees, if they don’t understand the value of cause marketing, it’s probably not going to work,” said Dave. “Cause marketing is just too big a part of what we do.”

For More Information: CauseTalk Radio Ep171

If You Liked This Promotion, You'll Like: Restaurant Execs: Cause Marketing, Employee Engagement Drive Bottom Line

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Promotion: See a Demo, Get a Goat

Partners: Formation Data Systems (FDS), Oxfam America

Why I Picked It: When Lisa Lewis, the marketing director at storage startup Formation Data Systems (FDS), pitched her company's management team on using goats and cause marketing to woo clients, they didn’t get it.

“What’s a goat have to do with a storage company?”

“I’ve never heard of another business like ours doing something like this.”

“Sure, people love animals. But we sell to businesses not to consumers.”

Despite their doubts, Lisa got approval to test a new cause marketing program: See a Demo, Get a Goat. Working with Oxfam America, FDS would donate a goat to a needy family every time a business agreed to watch a demonstration of their storage solution.

The real success of See a Demo, Get a Goat is how it evolved into a business mission. Today, FDS has integrated the goats into every aspect of their business. This includes creating a GoatBusters video series and featuring the goats on its homepage.

Cause marketing isn’t just for large companies that raise millions of dollars. Nor is it for just consumer companies like retailers, restaurants and convenience stores. Cause marketing can work just as effectively for B2B (business-to-business) companies. Just ask FDS! 

The key is to begin. If a goat can climb a tree, your business can do well and good with cause marketing.

For More Information: What a Goat Can Teach You About Cause Marketing

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