Cause marketing — is it just cynical fundraising?

by guest blogger George Crankovic


By now you’ve probably seen the commercials on TV for the Tide Loads of Hope campaign. Proctor & Gamble is bringing mobile washing machines and dryers to locations in the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina, and the company is donating 10¢ of every purchase of Tide to disaster relief efforts.


According to Brandweek.com, “P&G’s reasoning is that charitable giving is much easier when it’s built into a common or everyday purchase, such as detergent.”


This is of course just one of a gazillion examples of cause marketing. According to estimates, companies have spent almost $1.5 billion on cause marketing in 2009. In the words of marketing guru Bruce Burtch, who is credited by some as first conceiving of cause marketing, these companies are attempting to “do well by doing good.”


If companies are giving in order to get — if they’re wrapping themselves in philanthropy just to boost profits — and if people need a purchase to prompt them to give, then where does that leave traditional fundraising? In a very good position, actually.


Although cause marketing has its proponents, it misses the fundamental core of giving.


The truth is that people give because it feels good. And they give to do good, without any ulterior motive. The altruistic impulse is wired into our circuitry. It is not tied to purchases or dependent upon them. Giving is outside of commerce. Like volunteering, giving is the area of people’s lives that is happily unrelated to the “getting and spending” of the everyday grind. Giving doesn’t have a profit motive. Giving is its own reward.


Although mega-corporations will no doubt continue to bask in the reflected glow of their (self-remunerating) largess, we should never forget that we as fundraisers have the moral high ground. We occupy a unique place in the landscape of American life where there’s passion, energy, and drive for their own sake — not for profit — simply to make the world a better place. And the view from here is pretty good.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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