“Causes brings over 140 million people together to form the world’s largest giving community. The belief that everyone has something to give is at the core of what we do; people just need a little inspiration, and to know that whoever they are, there is something meaningful they can do.” -Joe Green, Causes.com


Box Tops for Education, TOMS Shoes, and Live Strong are a few of the most popular cause marketing campaigns today. They are great campaigns that help organizations and others in need. But what exactly is cause marketing?


In ReDefining Cause Marketing, Selfish Giving defines cause marketing a partnership between a nonprofit and a for-profit for mutual profit.


A Short History of Cause Marketing examines the history of cause marketing and provides examples of popular campaigns. In 1983, the term “cause-related marketing” was coined by American Express in a campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty.


It can be argued that cause marketing started in the 1960s or the 1970s. Some say it started in the 1960s with the Jerry Lewis Telethon and Muscular Dystrophy Association, others say the 1970s when Bruce Burtch organized fundraisers between Marriott Corporation and the March of Dimes.


Here are six activities to bring donors, a company or organization, and a cause together.


Point-of-sale. When a cashier ask you for a donation or encouraging advertisements are displayed at the register. March of Dimes and Kmart have a successful point-of-sale campaign by asking customers to donate during checking out.

Purchase or action triggered donation. A consumer buys a product and a donation is made to a cause. On World AIDS day, Starbucks donates 5 cents for every beverage purchased.

Licensing. A company pays to use a nonprofit’s brand on its product. (RED)™ is an example that works with iconic brands and organizations to develop (RED)-branded products and services, that when purchased, trigger corporate giving to the Global Fund.

Message Promotion. A company puts it resource to promoting a cause-forward message. Ben & Jerry’s Scoop it Forward campaign created a partnership with Target and VolunteerMatch.  Using a tasty way to raise funds and awareness. Thanking volunteers and letting people where they can sign up to volunteer.

Employee Engagement. When a company uses employee volunteers for social good. When Home Depot’s employees volunteer for local Habitat for Humanity projects, they are participating in an employee engagement campaign.

Digital Programs. Using the web and social media based services to promote and collect donations.


Cause marketing is a great tool for any organization. Let us know any cause marketing you see on a regular basis or any companies you see doing a great job at cause marketing–including your nonprofit!