How to make Cause Marketing work for your organization

April 2, 2014

Part 13 from the Win-Win for the Greater Good series

6. Cause marketing Definition

Cause marketing is a specialized subset of cross-sector partnerships, and like all cross-sector partnerships, cause marketing is a partnership between two or more sectors. Though in cause marketing, the partnership is primarily between nonprofit and for-profit organizations and is primarily about marketing, sales, fund development and increasing brand awareness. Cause marketing has grown by leaps and bounds, and in 2013 an estimated $1.78 billion was spent in North America alone on cause marketing campaigns.

Cause marketing is a marketing campaign with specific strategic goals and objectives. It is not an event, sponsorship or one-time project and certainly not philanthropy. You will find as we explore further into this area that a well-strategized and well-developed cause marketing campaign will bring you many of the benefits we have discussed in cross-sector partnerships.

While there are many definitions of cause marketing, the following is how I prefer to define it:
Cause marketing is a partnership between two or more nonprofit and for-profit organizations whereby each party receives benefit toward their individual marketing objectives, while striving through their combined resources to create a greater good.

Let’s break this definition down to see why this particular description is a bit more comprehensive, and possibly more demanding among others available, yet touches upon the foundational elements of highly successful cause marketing campaigns.

Partnership: Going into the partnership, both sides should come together as equals. This equality is necessary for a fair, trusting and successful working partnership. Without this trust, without this focus on true partnership, your campaign is dead in the water before it’s launched.

Two or more: In most cases, a cause marketing partnership is between two partners, but as we have seen, sometimes partnerships can have three and even four sectors involved. And sometimes, even multiple partners within sectors. Bringing multiple partners together can leverage the success of the marketing objectives. So don’t limit your partner opportunity thinking. More may be better, or maybe not, based on your marketing strategy and campaign needs.

Individual marketing objectives: All sides may be approaching this partnership with very different marketing objectives and internal agendas. This is to be expected. Having clear communication and understanding about these separate agendas and objectives and then working toward the benefit of all partners will greatly enhance the overall success of your cause marketing campaign.

Combined resources: Possibly more than in any other marketing or promotional endeavor, the successful execution of your cause marketing strategy and resulting campaign creates a whole far greater than the sum of its individual parts. You just can’t possibly accomplish alone what you can do working together for your mutual success.

Create a greater good: This is the part of my definition that seems to be left out in every other definition I’ve ever seen. However it is this focus on the greater good that sets the foundation for your successful campaign. Focusing on the greater good is the key ingredient that will motivate all partners and stakeholders involved in your campaign. The greatest impact, the real magic, comes when your campaign focuses on the people, issues or environment that will benefit from the campaign:
• Those whose lives will be saved because they are now prepared for an emergency
• The women and men in the future who will not get breast cancer because of the research you are helping to fund
• The homeless who will be given shelter
• The children who will be saved from starvation
• Addressing serious environmental situations

This is the greater good. You can address any nonprofit’s cause, but to be optimally successful, you must focus on who or what will benefit from your effort. Nonprofits as such are not causes in and of themselves, but facilitators that bring much-needed services and support to the cause, which of course, is the people, environment or social issues themselves…the greater good.

Please visit for more information and to view Win-Win for the Greater Good


My Holiday Gift to You: Win-Win for the Greater Good

December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Beginning the first week of January, I will be publishing a series of blogs taken from my new book Win-Win for the Greater Good. Launched to exceptional reviews and testimonials, Win-Win is the most comprehensive “how-to” guidebook on the development of cross-sector partnerships-partnerships between the nonprofit, for-profit, education and government sectors. In this series you will discover:

• How a for-profit organization can go from good to great to glowing.
• How to embed a “cause consciousness” into your organization
• How to raise revenue, funding, brand awareness, community goodwill and much more through partnerships
• How to stimulate employee satisfaction and retention

Most importantly, you will discover over 60 benefits that can be received by partners when working together for the greater good.

My New Year’s wish is that 2014 will be the year that we join together and form partnerships that will change our lives, our organizations, improve our communities and benefit those in need in our world.

“Win-Win for the Greater Good provides the ‘how to’ blueprint for organizations of any size and from any sector to build highly productive partnerships. It reveals the true essence of success – focusing on the business objectives of your partner, while striving together to create a greater good.”
Casey Sheahan, CEO, Patagonia, Inc.

“Win-Win lucidly captures Bruce Burtch’s decades of practitioner wisdom on cross-sector partnerships. The book is filled with rich examples and insightful practical guidance on how to build powerful partnerships. Read it and learn from a master!”
James E. Austin, Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, Harvard Business School
Author, The Collaboration Challenge

“A “must read” for any organization. Through real stories and his deep experience, Bruce Burtch proves that magic can happen when a partnership is focused on creating a greater good.”
Howard Behar, President, Starbucks Coffee International, Retired

Worth its weight in fundraising gold. Win-Win for the Greater Good turns the tables on traditional approaches to nonprofit/for-profit funding relationships. It challenges you to build a business value proposition and provides over 60 ways to beneficially impact your organization through partnerships, while greatly increasing your service impact.
Peggy Duvette, Executive Director, WiserEarth

Interview with Villy Wang, President and CEO of BAYCAT

February 12, 2013


Profiles in Partnership
A series on best practices and sound advice for developing and maintaining successful cause marketing and cross-sector partnerships between nonprofit and for-profit organizations

Part 3

BB: How do you find the people or companies you think would best fit the BAYCAT model?

VW:  Starting really with the basics with whom you know and asking about what organizations need; networking 101 also means good quality work naturally creates referrals.  We generally look for for-profit organizations that have evolved in a certain way with people who already have a heart and an intention to help nonprofit organizations. These are businesses that range from law firms to banks to tech companies to other social enterprises. Even foundations are naturally in the “business” of supporting nonprofits and need event capture and media services.

BB: When they look at you and as a nonprofit, do you see any misconceptions or any challenges that you need to deal with in working with the for-profit community?

VW: I think some of these misconceptions are about the level of professionalism, quality and service that a nonprofit can provide, and that a sustainable nonprofit is a business as well.  Instead of feeling that, oh, this is a nice charity, we want clients to know that we are also a business.

Sometimes because we are a nonprofit, some may think we can have our interns be able to work for free or we can do everything pro bono.  Why is it that when one goes to a commercial business for services one expects to pay them, but for a nonprofit, one thinks the quality of services won’t be as good so it should be cheaper or free?   I think that misconception comes from both places.  It’s not just the corporation’s responsibility, but it’s also the nonprofit’s responsibility to present themselves as a business, present the challenges in a strategic way.

BB: Do you do a lot of research before you go in that door to find a new partner?

VW: Absolutely.  You have to do your homework.  You have to understand what the focus areas are that the corporation is interested in. If they have some type of foundation, they will outline that on their website or obviously, if you could get in front of them in person, that’s better.  These days I feel people are so busy, the program managers and community affairs people, that you better know the answer to their questions that appear on their websites before you even ask or knock on their door.

BB: Do you ask your board or others to help you?

VW: Yes, everyone can be a spokesperson for our organization from our board, donors and even our parents and students. If you have strong board leaders, if you have really strong donors, and if you have students and parents who believe in your program, then you already have a tie-in.  That personal relationship will make a giant difference, especially if they can give your elevator pitch to the prospective organization, and then you come in and talk about the details.

You don’t have to talk to just one department like community affairs, if you know somebody in marketing, or if you know somebody who’s in any department – anybody you know is better than a cold call.

BB: What about just starting on a smaller scale to work your way into an organization?

VW: Yes, just start with the people that you know. We’ve had a lot of luck with people saying I love what you’re doing at BAYCAT so much, and I don’t have a lot to give, but I could get 10 people together and we’re going to go do a bowling night and whatever we raise that night, we’re going to give you.  That simple little gesture creates not only the money at the end of the night but it creates 10 new people who know about you and with whom, you would have had to pound the door yourself to meet.

Up Next: Part 4: Working with Volunteers

For more information on developing highly successful partnerships please visit: