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Knowledge Base

Q:
What is cause-related marketing?
A:

Cause-related marketing (CRM) is a mutually beneficial collaboration between a corporation and a nonprofit designed to promote the former’s sales and the latter’s cause.

American Express first coined the term in 1983 to describe its campaign to raise money for the Statue of Liberty’s restoration. American Express donated one cent to the restoration every time someone used its charge card. As a result, the Restoration Fund raised over $1.7 million and American Express card use rose 27%.  One study found that more than 9 in 10 consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause, assuming comparable quality and pricing.

Nonprofits can potentially benefit from the increased fundraising and exposure that CRM offers. Such partnerships, however, must be carefully considered as they can pose risks to both parties’ reputations. For example, a worthy cause could be cheapened if consumers see the CRM as crass commercialism. Look instead to some examples of successful partnerships at CauseGood and Selfish Giving.  Another good resource is the book Designing for the greater good : the best in cause-related marketing and nonprofit design , which has numerous examples from cause-related campaigns plus 24 case studies and insights into great nonprofit branding campaigns.

To find and develop CRM opportunities, nonprofit organizations should expand their research efforts beyond the traditional corporate giving divisions (such as corporate foundations or corporate giving programs)and instead try contacting a company’s marketing department. A company may partner with a small, unknown charity simply because it’s a worthy cause, but most look for charities that are well-known with a large supporter base and, increasingly, marketing know-how.

Learn now about corporate fundraising with Introduction to Corporate Giving, our free class. Available free as both an online webinar and an in-person class.

See also our related Knowledge Base articles:

- How can I find corporate sponsorship?

- Where can I find examples of sponsorship levels?

More articles about corporate funders»

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