What Corporate Decision Makers Look for in a Nonprofit Partner

By Peter Panepento

Impact, not sales, is the top motivation for companies when they select nonprofit partners for cause marketing campaigns, according to a new survey by the consultancy For Momentum.

Make no mistake: sales and public image are also vital components of effective cause-marketing programs.

But a small survey of top national brands — released by For Momentum at the Cause Marketing Forum’s annual conference — shows that, above all, charities need to be able to clearly demonstrate how a company’s investment will impact their missions and show how their work aligns with the company’s brand.

About three-quarters of the companies surveyed — 76 percent — say that impact is the top factor for selecting a nonprofit partner.

However, although impact is a top priority for most businesses, merely showing that an investment will achieve results is not enough for most companies to support a charity.

The survey also found that companies want to make sure that they are supporting programs that connect closely to their brand.

That means charities must research and understand the company’s brand goals — and how it measures the success of its cause-marketing arrangements.

“The most important takeaway for nonprofits is to do your homework,” said Mollye Rhea, For Momentum’s president and founder.

According to the survey, more than 9 in 10 companies say they select partners based on whether their programs align with the company’s brand — so charities need to make sure they are being careful in terms of where they cast their nets.

The full report is available for download on For Momentum’s website.

Hop 'n' Roll

Campaign: Hop 'n' Roll
Company: Gymboree, Kiwi Crate
Nonprofit Partner: KaBOOM!
Launch Date: April 7, 2015

Campaign:

Children’s retailer Gymboree has launched a new clothing line called Hop 'n' Roll with the help of a cause marketing campaign. One percent of the price of each Hop ’n’ Roll product sold (up to $50,000) until May 31, 2015 will be donated to nonprofit KaBOOM! with the goal of raising enough money to build a place to play for 10,000 deserving kids. In addition to the percentage of sale donation, customers will be invited to donate online and in-store. Also supporting the effort is subscription service Kiwi Crate, which has created a limited-edition crate for children to create a racing wind car. The crates will include a special offer to shop Gymboree and will sell for $5, with all proceeds being donated to KaBOOM! 

Our Take:

This campaign offers a solid example of how cause is evolving to become more fully integrated across retail channels. The fact that Gymboree is providing a (small) donation as a percentage of purchase shows consumers it has skin in the game, making the ask at register more authentic. According to KaBOOM!, the amount of the ask is being left to the discretion of sales associates, which will provide valuable learnings for all partners. Looping in Kiwi Crate is another win-win for all involved, potentially generating foot traffic to Gymboree, increasing donations to KaBOOM! and securing new subscription customers for Kiwi Crate. Overall, a solid brand fit and easy-to-understand integration for these kid-focused partners.

She Makes It

Campaign: She Makes It
Company: Nordstorm, Piece & Co.
Nonprofit Partner: None
Launch Date: March 9, 2015

Campaign:

Nordstrom and social enterprise Piece & Co. have just revealed a new collection of apparel and accessories that connects style with global impact. Eight brands (Alice + Olivia, Current/Elliott, DVF, Joie, Rebecca Minkoff, Theory, The Honest Company, and Tory Burch) worked closely with Piece & Co. to source handmade materials and fabrics that are then incorporated into their pieces – dresses, tops, skirts, shorts and handbags. The collection will be available at select Nordstrom stores and on nordstrom.com. By joining forces with Nordstrom, these brands are able to create more than 5,000 jobs through Piece & Co. 

Our Take:

Nordstrom has recently started dipping its toe into the world of social impact and so far, their initiatives are woven into the very fabric of their product, a smart place to start. As a high end retailer, teaming up with well known designers to utilize unique, handmade fabrics expands their product line to offer distinctive pieces not found on the racks of competitors. The fact that the fabrics empower women in developing countries makes the line and its related story all the more compelling.

UNICEF Kid Power

kid_power_unicef.jpg

Campaign: UNICEF Kid Power
Company: Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins, Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks and city Mayors
Nonprofit Partner: U.S. Fund for UNICEF
Launch Date: March 4, 2015

Campaign:

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF has announced the launch of Kid Power, a partnership with three city mayors and local sports teams to encourage elementary school-age kids to get physically active while helping save the lives of their peers in developing countries. Kicking off in New York, Boston and Dallas this month, 10,000 participating elementary school students will monitor their physical activity with fitness bands that display the number of steps taken and number of points earned. Program supporters will convert students' points into monetary donations toward the purchase of therapeutic food. A full day of physical activity translates into five Kid Power Points, which will ultimately convert to one packet of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, a peanut paste that is used to save the lives of children with severe acute malnutrition.  The UNICEF Kid Power program also includes in-classroom curriculum and educational activities focused on childhood malnutrition.

Our Take:

The concept of kids-helping-kids is an extremely powerful one, well executed in this campaign from the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Empowering children to take control of their daily activity starts to change the tone of the obesity conversation from top-down to bottom-up. Incentivizing kids to participate by equipping them with the knowledge that their small steps can translate into meaningful change for children across the world is a tangible and, seemingly effective motivator. In a pilot study last year, school kids engaged in the program were 55 percent more active than those not participating.

Jeff Bridges Sleeping Tapes

Campaign: Jeff Bridges Sleeping Tapes
Company: Squarespace
Nonprofit Partner: Share Our Strength
Launch Date: February 1, 2015

Campaign:

All-in-one website publishing platform Squarespace has announced a partnership with Jeff Bridges launching during Super Bowl XLIX. The collaboration, "Jeff Bridges Sleeping Tapes", brought to life on DreamingWithJeff.com, features a unique album of relaxing sounds, guided meditations, and stories designed to lull you to sleep. The sleeping tracks are free to stream online as a 'pay what you like' release on Jeff's Squarespace site and benefit Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry® campaign. Limited-run cassette tapes and vinyls will be available for sale on the website following the ad's debut, and 5 special limited-edition vinyls will be auctioned off separately also benefitting the charity. 100% of the retail price (excluding shipping and service fees) from each album sold goes directly to No Kid Hungry. See the teaser spot below then keep your eyes peeled in the first half of the Super Bowl for the 30-second spot.

Our Take:

We’ve been waiting with bated breath to learn which Super Bowl ads will feature a cause component and which brands do so most effectively. The Super Bowl is about being unique and unexpected; Squarespace certainly earns points for this offbeat approach. In this partnership, the inclusion of No Kid Hungry allows Squarespace to showcase their merchant account capabilities in a way that encourages consumer participation. Without the cause, that piece would either fall flat or cease to exist. And speaking of video at the Super Bowl, be sure to listen in to this week’s episode of Cause Talk Radio with See3’s Michael Hoffman to dig deeper into what works with cause and video and how it relates to Super Bowl ads.