This white paper discusses the valuable role that cause marketing can play when corporations team up with nonprofits to “do well by doing good.”

What’s cause marketing and where are its roots?

Nonprofits have much to gain by understanding the concept of cause marketing. Once they recognize the potential for positive publicity and fund-raising opportunities, they can proactively begin a dialogue with their corporate supporters, asking them to consider using cause marketing as a tool for generating brand awareness and profits. Informed nonprofit leaders are quickly recognizing the power of this tool for all parties involved.

So, let’s begin the conversation. We have been hearing a lot about “cause marketing” lately, but exactly what is it? Cause marketing is most often defined as the action through which a company and a nonprofit organization (or educational institution or similar entity) markets an image, a product, a service or a message for the mutual benefit of both parties.

Going beyond the increase in revenue though, cause marketing is rapidly becoming a powerful way for corporations to send a message to their internal employees and their external audience. In case there were any doubts of the influence of cause marketing, Edelman Trust Barometer reports that 80% of global consumers agree that business must play a role in addressing societal issues and six in ten Americans state they would buy first from a company that backs a cause they support according to “The Art of Cause Marketing.” Is any further affirmation necessary when considering the influence of cause marketing today?

But this concept is not really new. In fact, the whole idea is now more than 40 years old! For those of you who are history buffs, the first known case of cause marketing in the United States is most often traced to March 1974, when Carr & Associates International was formed by John T. Carr as a way of "giving back" to the nonprofit community. What Carr initiated was a novel suggestion that would connect charitable causes and corporate organizations in order for them to support each other. John sought out those businesses that would normally offer cash incentives for referrals and asked them to redirect those funds, donating them to the charitable cause of the buyer's choice. This would generate additional revenue for the cause, make the buyer feel generous, and would build great publicity for the corporate business at no additional cost to them because they were paying referral fees anyway.

About two years later the first real “cause marketing campaign” was launched by forming a partnership between the Marriott Corporation and the March of Dimes. Marriott's objective was to generate highly cost‐effective public relations and media coverage for the opening of their 200‐acre family entertainment center in Santa Clara, CA. The March of Dimes' objective was to greatly increase fundraising while motivating the collection of pledges by the program’s deadline. The promotion was conducted simultaneously in 67 cities throughout the western United States and resulted in raising an unprecedented $2.4 million for the March of Dimes while providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity and stimulating a 2.2 million-person attendance for the opening year of the Marriott entertainment complex. This initiative produced the ideal ‘win‐win’ situation that is at the core of cause marketing. Its incredible success eventually resulted in having Bruce Burtch, who conceived and directed the program, being hailed as the father of cause marketing by the Cause Marketing Forum, the industry's primary association. Burtch is also credited with coining the important phrase, "Do well by doing good” which has become the rallying cry for these types of endeavors.

To download a PDF of the complete White Paper, click here