Creating a cause-related marketing program: the essentials

You don’t need tens of thousands of dollars to give to get involved with -- and benefit from -- partnering with nonprofits.

Small businesses tend to shy away from integrating cause-related programs into their strategic marketing plan, thinking they have little to offer organizations. But it's far from the truth. Here are three pointers for achieving success in partnership with charitable organizations:

  • Set giving guidelines: Try to establish some parameters such as geography (within 60-mile radius, nationwide, statewide) giving focus (i.e. education, military families, environment) and possible exclusions (i.e. political organizations or individuals). It makes it easier to say yes -- and to say no to requests that don't meet your criteria.
  • Determine the ways you wish to give: A popular way to give is percentage of sales, but there are others. You can give in-kind items, sponsor events, or donate products to be auctioned off. If you are a retailer, you can do a check-out campaign and ask store customers to join your efforts. You can volunteer your time and expertise by becoming an advisor or board member, and have scheduled volunteer days when your employees can contribute their time, too. Think out what works best for you and ask organizations what their needs are.
  • Manage interactions with charities for maximum benefit on both sides: While doing good is its own reward, it doesn't hurt when charitable endeavors generate a fountain of good will and publicity. Promote your nonprofit partner on your website and ask them to do the same. Explore what marketing tools (i.e. newsletters, social media, PR contacts, mailing lists, events) organizations may have at their disposal. Just remember, it's a two-way street and you should be giving as much -- if not more -- than you get.

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