Webinar Recap: We Learn the Secrets to Successful Cause Marketing

Cause Marketing for DummiesFor the October edition of our Best Practice Network Webinar Series, VolunteerMatch invited Joe Waters to share his expertise on cause marketing. Geared towards nonprofits and businesses of all sizes, he offered a concise overview of the best fundraising strategies as well as advice on finding the perfect partner. With Joe’s advice, it became clear that any nonprofit – no matter your size, capacity or mission, can benefit from cause marketing.

Joe has extensive knowledge on the subject: he was the Director of Cause and Event Marketing at the Boston Medical Center, and he recently co-authored Cause Marketing for Dummies, a great primer for nonprofits, businesses and organizations looking to start a successful cause marketing partnership. You can also follow his blog “Selfish Giving,” where since 2004 he’s been sharing his success stories and views on emerging trends.

Best Cause Marketing Tactics

Before you can have a successful campaign, first you need to pin down a good definition. Cause marketing has come to mean many things, but at its core, it’s a relationship where nonprofits reach out through a business to its consumers in order to promote their cause, or what Joe calls “a partnership between a nonprofit and a for-profit for mutual profit.”

Both parties should expect to put in equal amounts of work so that everyone’s happy at the end of the day. Nonprofits raise money and awareness for their cause, and businesses increase favorability with customers, leading to increased sales.

Facebook Likes

This is a great way to build your digital footprint. Money gets donated through Facebook likes or other social media activity on a partner’s page.

  • Do you have an online presence? Both the nonprofit and the business should have an existing social media profile with lots of fans to really leverage the power of online interaction. Facebook has recently diminished the visibility of Facebook ‘likes’ on the news feed, so deeper, more active forms of online engagement (comments, followers on Twitter, retweets, photos) are becoming the new benchmark.
  • New opportunity for partners: Businesses have already been approached countless times with coin canister and pinup campaigns. They might be more interested in fresh ideas centered around social media initiatives.
  • Builds credibility: A Facebook campaign shows your partner that you understand the potential impact of social media and builds your reputation as a progressive organization. This could lead to deeper partnerships in the future.


Without a doubt, volunteering is the most personal way for companies to get involved with your organization. Employee volunteer programs show true investment in the cause and build the best credibility with consumers. They’re also a chance to engage front-line employees, who benefit as well. These programs have even been shown to increase employee retention.

Volunteer events also extend to customers. The opportunity of bringing customers and employees together for a volunteer event is extremely attractive to businesses. No advertising campaign can create this kind of powerful interaction, and this kind of increased awareness about the real impact of your organization.

For increased visibility, package these events with other opportunities. Tie them in with other campaigns—your Facebook like campaign can promote a volunteer opportunity, and vice versa.

Finding a Partner

But how can nonprofits find a business that will want to run a cause marketing campaign with them? Start with direct supporters—individuals you’re connected with who support your cause, perhaps only on a personal level at first. Through them, you can get a foot in the door and reach out to their business contacts.

Once you have built a network of supporters and gotten a few campaigns under your belt, you can use your experiences and successes to connect with other prospects. Cold calls can be tough, but when you have a good track record and an established network, you have a lot to bring to the table.

Your Program Should Be Free

The real goal is connecting to your partner’s customers, employees and clients. Demanding money up front only puts up a ‘pay wall,’ and offering your program for free gives you competitive edge over the rest of the cause marketing crowd.

Getting to Yes

  • Increase the Number of Touch Points: Nonprofits should bring supporters and prospective business partners into the offices and show them first-hand the work you do in the community. These are the things that make people want to invest their time and money.
  • Be Flexible and Helpful: Be sure to keep partners updated on future opportunities, provide metrics about how much money your campaign has raised and how many people have learned about your cause through their business. You want to be their go-to expert on cause marketing.

It’s not hard to start a great cause marketing campaign, but it’s easy to overlook details that can quickly turn into pitfalls. With Joe’s advice, even small–medium-sized nonprofits can form lasting partnerships with businesses and implement campaigns that grow into a valuable source of funding and impact.

To learn more about traditional cause marketing strategies like coin canisters, pinups, purchase-triggered donations, and shopping days, you can watch the full presentation on the VolunteerMatch Youtube Channel. Sign up for Joe’s Selfish Giving bi-weekly newsletter by submitting your email address in the top right-hand corner of the page, and if you buy CauseMarketing for Dummies, you can send a copy of your receipt to Books@Selfishgiving.com to receive free bonus material.

Has your organization formed a successful cause marketing partnership with a business? Tell us about it in the comments!

Jesse Fineman is an intern at VolunteerMatch. You can reach him at jfineman@volunteermatch.org