March 2011.

I recently attended the Cause Marketing Forum in Chicago. It was a great two days filled with seeing old friends and making new ones. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear what others are doing to promote and raise funds for their causes and what companies are doing to leverage their assets for the greater good. Below are a few notes from the sessions, panels, and small discussion groups. Enjoy and hope to see you there next year!

1. During the Walmart presentation, the speaker mentioned the fact that retailers feel a pressure from their customers to promote their giving around holidays. Charities sometimes shy away from holidays but should possibly be rethinking that strategy in regards to CM.

2. A&E started to generate interest in a cause through their Intervention show. Then, they needed to find experts that could help educate their marketing team about the issue. They turned to non-profits for their expertise. What expertise does your organization offer that you could include in benefits for partners?

3. Before launching their hunger initiative, Walmart made a 5 year commitment to the campaign. This allowed them to respond to first year comments with a ‘come get involved and help shape the campaign for the next 4 years’ message. It engaged them in the long-term instead of missing the opportunity. How long have you committed to your cause and when you receive comments (and you will!), how will you respond?

4. Cause Marketing is no longer about the CEO or Executive ‘wish’ and really needs to connect with employee engagement and customer interests. Non-profits should be building their CM prospect lists around where your clients shop and work and spend time getting to know the company’s employees and customers. But, be sure that once you have identified your ideal partners, try to connect at every level (customer, employee, marketing department, executive, board, etc.).

5. The CEO of spoke about identifying a celebrity for your cause that might not be on the ‘A’ List but rather someone that is passionate and that can be a quarterback or coach. You want someone that can rally a team of other friends and celebs for your cause.

6. Throughout the conference, I heard several people talking about the importance of data. The metrics used varied from the number of jeans collected by Aeropostale and or the amount of votes cast or applications received. The data was not always monetary so be sure you are thinking in broad terms about how to measure the success of your campaign. This requires conversation with your partner to determine the goals for each organization early on so they can be measured.

7. Create your own channels so you don’t have to wait for media to cover your program. The days of submitting a press release and praying for the media to pick up the story and share it with the masses is over. Every organization, regardless of size, has an opportunity through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, organization-hosted websites, retail outlets, and more to communicate with the public and more specifically – the audience you are trying to reach. Don’t wait – start sharing your message now!

8. If you are considering a crowdsourcing campaign, take a look at Americas Giving Challenge Survival Guide for Charities as a resource and overview of tools.

9.  There was a push by non-profits and companies to find third-party groups to regulate and monitor online contests such as crowdsourcing. I think there might be an opporutnity for technology-focused non-profits to provide this service as a social venture which could provide sustainable revenue.

10. Cause marketing partnerships are investing in documentary filmmaking to capture the excitement and real change happening because of these partnerships. One example is the Tide Loads of Hope documentary detailing their journey to Haiti. How is your organization using video for cause marketing and other partnerships?


To learn more about the Cause Marketing Forum, visit and search for Cause Marketing Forum on Twitter for tons of great updates and session recaps.