Choose well to benefit a cause

I read with interest your article on cause-related marketing, “Give and take” (MW August 26). I was delighted to see Marketing Week giving cause-related marketing its rightful recognition as a bona fide marketing activity borne out of business objectives, rather than a philanthropic add-on.

After ten years of cause-related marketing experience working with global brands, blue-chip companies and smaller independent companies in the USA and UK, I agree with Martin Le Jeune, who says: “Companies cannot grab a charity off the shelf. They should think of it as a business deal, rather than do-gooding.”

But I’d also like to stress that if all charities are to benefit from the predicted “boom” in cause-related marketing, then corporate responsibility lies in the considered selection of a charity partner.

This choice should be based on the wider issues surrounding brand fit and partnership synergy, rather than succumbing for reassurance to the pull of the bigger, higher-profile charities.

I advise companies considering a charity partnership for the first time to guard against accusations of “jumping on the charity bandwagon” by paying close attention to matching brand values, target market and reputation, for example.

As you so rightly pointed out, “mutual benefit” can mean a lot more than money for the charity and increased recognition of social responsibility for the company. Marketers can use the power of their brands to help lift the profile of the charity partner.

After conducting the necessary desk research, customer and staff surveys, and so on, companies wishing to find a charity partner should feel free to contact prospective charities direct and “dig a little deeper”. Given the opportunity to discuss the potential partnership openly and frankly, they’ll be able to identify a genuine synergy which may not be immediately obvious.

This will help “shift the focus from the money invested to the outcome of cause-related activities”, as suggested by Chris Gribben of Ashbridge Centre for Business and Society. Some £20 might seem like a tiny amount of money, but to The Children’s Society it will provide a bed for a month at one of our refuges for runaway children. Companies making a larger commitment can really make a difference to our work and the lives of the 40,000 children we help each year.

Companies working with charities for the first time may be surprised to learn that for many charities cause-related marketing is not new. Some of our corporate partnerships have lasted more than 13 years and continue to grow. Similarly, the charity “corporate fundraiser” is generally a marketing professional who has moved from the commercial to voluntary sector. For example, our corporate fundraising department is a diverse team made up of marketing, PR and sales professionals.

Finally, I’d like to thank Marketing Week for putting cause-related marketing on its agenda and I look forward to reading about successful cause-related marketing partnerships in forthcoming issues.

Michelle Benson

Head of corporate fundraising

The Children’s Society

London WC1

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