Today’s consumer wants brands to stand up for social causes, which means that now more than ever, brands should take advantage of forming nonprofit partnerships with causes that they and their customers care about. Cause marketing benefits both the nonprofit and the brand when done correctly, and can even help brands better engage with their customers and boost customer loyalty.
When forming a nonprofit partnership for your brand, it’s important to choose the right one. Consumers not only want to see brands engaging in social impact, but they’re looking for authentic strategies too. Consumers are spending more time getting to know the brands that they support, spending more time on the About Us page, and are paying more attention to the impact efforts that a brand engages in. This means that an inauthentic partnership will stand out— and not for the better.
Cause Marketing is No Longer Optional
Consumers are not only expecting brands to do more in regards to social impact, but they’re expecting them to do it well. It’s no longer enough to say that you use recycled materials or that you donate a portion of proceeds— today’s consumers want to see brands be more involved in societal issues and 53% of consumers actually believe that brands can do more to solve these issues than the Government.
The younger generation of consumers are buying with their values and voting with their wallets and are being more mindful of which brands they support with their dollars. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many brands were scrambling to stay afloat against the competition, and the brands who stepped up to give back were favored well by consumers.
As the popularity of cause marketing increases, corporate partnerships with nonprofits help consumers find value-alignment with the brands that they support. In fact, 88% of Millennial consumers would be more loyal to a brand who gives back. Additionally, these conscious consumers are not only willing to switch brands, despite previous customer loyalty, but will even pay extra if it means that their purchase helps contribute to a good cause.
Aligning Brand Values with Nonprofit Partnerships
The key to partnering with nonprofit organizations is to find value-alignment between your brand and their organization. To make the biggest impact, your brand should ask the following questions to get started:
- What cause correlates with my brand’s mission?
- Which nonprofit organization best aligns with my brand’s values?
- What types of nonprofit partnerships can my brand create?
While your brand can support any cause, certain causes may make more sense in creating a fully-integrated cause marketing strategy for your brand. For example, if your brand creates shoes from recycled materials, it would make more sense for you to partner with an environment-based nonprofit as opposed to a nonprofit that supports hunger relief. While these are both great causes, it’s best to partner with nonprofit organizations whose mission aligns with your brand offerings.
A brand and nonprofit collaboration example that illustrates why aligning your values together is crucial is an unlikely partnership between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Susan G. Komen. KFC pledged to donate $8 million towards Susan G. Komen, but many people were critical of an organization dedicated to raising money for women’s health deciding to partner with and promote a product that’s bad for your health. While the campaign was meant to bring awareness and education towards breast cancer research and treatment, Susan G. Komen received backlash instead.
When thinking about corporate partnerships with nonprofits, you’ll want to ensure that you find a nonprofit that aligns with your brand’s values and mission and that will be mutually beneficial to both you and the nonprofit. A great nonprofit collaboration example is that between DoorDash and Feeding America. In honor of Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month, DoorDash teamed up with Feeding America to donate $1 for every order that was placed. To thank customers for participating in the campaign, DoorDash gave every participant a promo code for $5 off their next order.
Once you find a cause that aligns with your brand’s offerings, you’ll want to think about what types of nonprofit partnerships and campaigns your brand can create. How can your brand and the nonprofit partner together? What can your campaign offer? For an engaging and authentic campaign, you’ll want to think about these questions carefully.
Ensure You’re Creating a Credible Partnership
Another factor to consider when partnering with nonprofit organizations is to ensure that the organization you are partnering with is credible. When looking at charitable organizations to work with, you should focus on the social impact that will result from that partnership. You’ll also want to consider whether a nonprofit is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and ensure that it allocates its funds as promised. You can use resources like Charity Navigator and GuideStar to gain deeper insights into how credible an organization is.
The types of nonprofit partnerships that are most effective are ones in which both the brand and the nonprofit are fully committed to the cause. It’s important to find a cause that your brand is passionate about and look beyond the PR opportunity from the partnership. While these partnerships are great for PR, consumers can tell when brands are actually committed to a cause versus when they are using a cause to make themselves appear socially conscious, as in the example of greenwashing.
Set Campaign Goals and Marketing Strategies
Goals For The Partnership
Once you’ve found the cause that you want to pursue, it’s time to decide how you are going to work together, what kinds of campaigns you can set up to support the organization through your brand, and what your goals for this partnership are. This is where you can get creative and tell a story around why your brand advocates for the cause. In fact, 87% of consumers will actually purchase from a brand because they advocated for an issue that they care about.
As previously mentioned, consumers are expecting to see a brand do more than just donate a portion of proceeds. A great way to ingrain a cause into your brand’s core values is to create a type of nonprofit partnership that your employees can get involved with too. Not only is this a great way to create advocacy for the cause within your organization, but it’s also a great way to boost employee morale. 88% of Millennials actually feel that their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact.
When thinking about your corporate partnership with a nonprofit, you need to think about your goal for the partnership and look beyond the dollars donated. What will these dollars help the nonprofit accomplish? How can your organization get more involved? If for example you support hunger relief, can you provide your employees with opportunities to volunteer at local food banks?
A nonprofit collaboration example that goes above and beyond for authentic cause marketing is Patagonia. In addition to being proud partners of 1% for the Planet and ensuring ethical and sustainable business practices, Patagonia chose to donate their $10 million tax cut to environmental protection groups. Similar to Patagonia, your brand should aim to create authentic experiences and commit to a cause that aligns with your brand’s values. Donating a portion of proceeds is a great start, but integrating a cause throughout your brand strategy can make all the difference.
Marketing The Partnership
Once you have your goals aligned with the cause that you are supporting, you’ll need to market your partnership with the nonprofit you have chosen to support. Homepage call-outs such as eyebrow or hero banners can help inform your customers of your giving initiatives as soon as they visit your site. In addition to your traditional About Us page, it’s a great idea to create an Impact Page that can educate your customers about what your partnership is all about, how it works, your goals, and tell a story of why you support the cause.
A great example of using an Impact Page is Kenneth Cole. They share the different causes that their brand advocates for and explains the ways that they have worked to support those causes through various campaigns and giving initiatives.
You should also include information about your choice to partner with a nonprofit organization in your email journeys. A dedicated announcement email is a great way to spread the word about your partnership, share your goals for the partnership, and explain how you are going to achieve those goals. You can also include information about your giving initiatives in retargeting and cart abandonment emails as well to re-engage customers and incentivize them to come back and support your brand.
A great example of using email to share your nonprofit partnership is Huron. They sent a dedicated email to share their commitment to support Feeding America during the Covid-19 pandemic and shared the impact that was being made from the partnership.
Social media is another great way to get the word out about your choice to support a cause. You can use social media to co-market your partnered nonprofit and even engage customers by bringing them into the conversation of social impact.
As a long-term supporter of the American Heart Association, White and Warren used social media to inform their customers that they would be donating 20% of proceeds to the American Heart Association to celebrate American Heart Month and National Wear Red Day. Through social media, White and Warren was able to engage their customers in this campaign and educate them on the importance of heart health.
Nonprofit Collaboration Example: Office Hours x TEACH
A great nonprofit collaboration example is that between Office Hours and TEACH. Office Hours is a knowledge exchange platform that helps professionals share their expertise and was looking for a way to reflect their commitment to giving back. Through cause marketing, Office Hours empowers these professionals to double their impact by sharing their knowledge and supporting causes they care about by donating a portion of their earnings.
TEACH brings hands-on STEM education to hospitalized children to challenge and empower these children in ways that change how they view science, their hospital stays, and their lives. Through this partnership, supporters of TEACH can join Office Hours to share their knowledge with digital health startups, therapeutic organizations, healthcare investment firms and more, all while helping create donations for TEACH to continue helping hospitalized children.
A core part of Office Hours’ mission is to help individuals realize the value of their unique experiences and with feedback from their team, they knew there was a need for using professional expertise to pay it forward.
Are You Ready to Form a Nonprofit Partnership?
When done right, corporate partnerships with nonprofits can benefit your brand in more ways than one. By being a socially conscious brand, you can boost customer loyalty, employee morale, brand exposure, and most importantly, raise awareness for a good cause. The most important thing to remember about partnering with a nonprofit organization is to be authentic in your campaign.