6 Steps to Developing an Effective Cause Marketing Strategy

If your business is looking to do good in the world while building your brand, one simple way to increase credibility with your target audience is through a cause marketing strategy. Cause marketing involves the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a nonprofit organization for mutual benefit. For a nonprofit, that benefit may come in the form of increased fundraising success, whereas for a for-profit business, it could be greater brand awareness or enhanced consumer goodwill.

When done properly, a cause marketing strategy helps spread your brand's message and boost revenue. In fact, consumers are four to six times more likely to trust and buy from brands affiliated with causes, according to the latest Zeno report. Some even go as far as switching brands if an alternative company supports a cause they’re invested in.

Let's explore six key steps to crafting an effective cause marketing strategy that will help boost your business and your brand.


What is Cause Marketing?

Cause marketing, a form of strategic partnership between a brand and a nonprofit organization, has become an increasingly popular way for companies to enhance their image and reach new consumers. By linking the mission of their organization with the goal of making the world a better place, businesses can establish positive relationships with consumers and help raise funds for a great cause at the same time. 

Also, by aligning your brand with a cause, you can show your employees that you care about more than just profits and that you are committed to making a positive impact on the world. Cause marketing can also help your business improve recruitment and retention, as modern employees are increasingly looking for companies that are socially responsible and that have goals that align with their values.


Benefits of a Cause Marketing Strategy

Cause marketing is an important way for for-profit companies to give back to the community while also building a closer relationship with their target market. Through a combination of philanthropy, cause marketing, and effective PR, companies can enhance their public image and show consumers they are a caring and socially responsible business. 

The results of a brand’s cause marketing campaign reflect highly on the integrity of the business, as well as the work ethics of the staff and employees behind it. This means that a targeted, well-thought-out, effective cause marketing strategy can help your business be seen in a positive light by consumers, as well as help develop a dedicated workforce motivated by doing good for the community.

6 Steps to Developing a Powerful Cause Marketing Strategy

1. Consider Your Brand's Values

The first step in creating a great cause marketing campaign is knowing what your values are. Your company values inform where you stand on specific areas of interest. Having a strong grasp of your brand and what your consumers expect from it is essential for creating an effective partnership with a nonprofit that will benefit both parties. Be clear about how your resources can help your nonprofit partner and how that relationship will benefit both your brand and theirs. This could be anything from helping your nonprofit partner gain more visibility to assisting them with raising funds for a specific cause or a combination of related benefits. 

On the other hand, the relationship can benefit your company by providing opportunities for employee engagement and team building by involving your employees in the campaign. You can also increase your brand's exposure by tapping into the nonprofit's network and reaching a wider audience. 

Before selecting a partnership, first, ensure that your values are aligned with the nonprofit you’re considering and that you share the same aspirations and views of the world. This will not only help ensure that your partnership is a good fit but also create a strong foundation to create great results for both you and them.

2. Define Your Goals

Partnering with a nonprofit is a commitment that may last for a month, a year, or indefinitely. Regardless, your partnership with a nonprofit will take some time and can be a long-term commitment. Both partners must set a manageable joint plan for your cause marketing campaign together and agree on key milestones and deliverables.

Clarify your cause marketing strategy goals. Are you trying to:

  • Increase awareness of your products or service? 
  • Sell more goods? 
  • Improve your brand image? 
  • Raise more funds for the cause?
  • Gain more supporters and loyal donors for the cause?

Whatever your goals are, make sure to measure the success of your efforts as your campaign progresses.

3. Select a Cause

Before you decide to enter into a partnership with a nonprofit, be sure you know exactly what the nonprofit does and how they do it (e.g., an organization that raises funds for rare cancer through eye-catching social media posts and challenges). Find out what their capabilities and limitations are, and find synergies that can make a partnership mutually beneficial. In order to ensure you’re forming the best possible partnership with the right brand, ask yourself questions like: 

  • Do they have a social media master on staff? 
  • Are they known for throwing fundraising events that have a great turnout? 
  • Do they have a big email list on hand that they can reach out to?
  • Do they have enough infrastructure to pair up with my business?
  • Are they a good fit for my brand values? 

For example, if your company is committed to using local and natural ingredients in their products, such as local honey and beeswax, partnering with a bee conservancy or preservation organization might be a natural fit, while a nonprofit partner that advocates for veganism and not using animal products might not. 

Furthermore, when you start a cause marketing campaign, the partnership between your brand and your nonprofit partner should be felt at all levels of your organization. Make sure that your employees and team support the partnership and are engaged in helping both parties meet their goals. 

Lastly, before going any further into your cause marketing process, check for any regulations your state might impose on partnerships or “co-ventures” between nonprofits and businesses. After all, you wouldn’t want to go through all the time and trouble of finding the perfect organization to partner with only to find out your state won’t allow it!

4. Craft Your Message

The more straightforward your campaign message is, the better chance consumers will have of remembering it in the constant barrage of posts, ads, and pop-ups they encounter daily. You want your cause marketing campaign to have the greatest possible financial and social impact, so you’ll also want the widest possible exposure to your target audience.

While the exact number is debatable, studies show that users' attention spans have dropped from 12 to eight seconds on average. Users tend to click away from a page if the content is complex and confusing for them. This means that complicated marketing assets with unclear messages can contribute to high bounce rates and low returns. 

Again, the simpler, the better!

5. Choose the Right Channels

Another important step to take in your cause marketing strategy is to choose the right channels to promote your partnership to potential donors or buyers. You may consider looking at your partner’s history and achievements to get an overview of their credibility as an organization. As with any business, certain nonprofits are better suited to some ways of getting the word out than others. For example, if your brand is a kid’s clothing store partnering with a children’s charity, hosting a fun event for kids to get their parents into the store might be a great starting point, in addition to digital methods like leveraging your email list and social media presence. 

It's also helpful if the nonprofit knows its way around social media. More attention and financial support can be gained by maintaining an active social media presence, regardless of your cause, which is good for both organizations.

6. Measure the Success of Your Campaign

Measuring the success of your cause marketing campaign is essential for understanding whether or not it achieved its desired results. There are a variety of metrics you can evaluate, such as:

  • Conversion Rate - How many people saw your post, email, pop-up, or webpage vs. how many took action, such as signing a petition, donating, or making a purchase.
  • Funds Raised - How many donations were made or how much money was raised, and conversely, how much your business made, if any, from the campaign.
  • Engagement rates and website visits - Likes, shares, and comments on social media posts, clickthroughs to your brand’s site, and engagement metrics such as the number of pages viewed, forms filled, and other website actions

To ensure that your campaigns remain successful, it’s important to track progress at multiple points during the campaign and adjust course when necessary. Additionally, engaging customers in surveys can help you gain valuable insights into customer sentiment toward your campaign and what could be improved in the future. If there’s a negative sentiment or criticism about your campaign, for example, it’s important to take accountability by addressing the issue directly and taking steps to correct public opinion before the situation spirals out of hand.

Examples of Cause Marketing  Campaigns

Let’s take a look at some examples of successful cause marketing campaigns. Below are three companies that effectively used a cause marketing strategy to boost not only revenue but also brand awareness and did it in a way that contributed to increased customer goodwill.

1. Dairy Queen's Campaign for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals

For over 38 years, International Dairy Queen, Inc. has been partnering with Children's Miracle Network for cause marketing campaigns. Their charitable giving program, DQ Cares, together with Dairy Queen franchisees, has raised over $160 million for children's hospitals. And now, they've launched a new campaign called "Dip It For Kids," where customers can donate $1 and receive a free vanilla cone dipped in their DQ chocolate-flavored shell. 

In 2021 alone, Dairy Queen raised $5,733,754 for the organization from their various campaigns. The money raised was distributed to multiple sub-causes, such as charitable care, equipment, education, research and treatment, advancement services, and patient services. It's a win-win situation where customers get a tasty treat and children's hospitals get the support they need.

2. BoxLunch’s Campaign for Feeding America

BoxLunch, founded in 2015, is a retail store with a mission to end hunger in the country by partnering with Feeding America. Their campaign is straightforward - for every $10 spent by customers, they donate one meal to those in need via local food banks. Recently, in 2023, the business celebrated donating 150 million meals to communities in need. They are hopeful and enthusiastic about continuing their mission in the years to come.

Enhance Your Cause Marketing Strategy With FrontStream

No matter where you are on your cause marketing path, we can help you streamline, manage, and automate your charitable giving process and donation requests with our intuitive donation and sponsorship management solution. On top of simplifying your charitable giving efforts, our solution provides everything you need to create shipping labels, set up email staff alerts and notifications, track certificate numbers and expiration dates, and assign user permission levels all from one easy-to-navigate place.

For nonprofits interested in procuring in-kind donations and sponsorships, our unique contact list of socially-minded companies that love giving back is a fantastic way to start your cause marketing partnership.

Request a demo to learn more about our donation and sponsorship management solution, or talk to an expert about our all-in-one fundraising solution today!


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