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Cause-related marketing with a green theme

Cause-related marketing, or consumption philanthropy, is the act of supporting a charitable cause while selling a product or service. We all participate in this kind of marketing when we buy a candy bar to support our kid’s school band or choose clothing made by a company that will use a share of its proceeds to cure disease.

Smart companies large and small have learned that promoting a social cause in conjunction with an event will attract sponsorship and increase attendance. The results are a win-win: Companies receive greater exposure and worthy causes receive much-needed support.

Philanthropy marketing can also be a great way to round out a commitment to a sustainable show or event. Evaluate your attendees to determine if they are a local or national/international audience. Then determine whether it would be best to select a regional cause, or one that has a more global impact. Local causes can include anything from supporting an organization that collects used sporting equipment for underprivileged kids, to rehabilitating a community park. Well-known organizations like the Sierra Club, Green Peace (you know I couldn’t resist), or Habitat for Humanity might appeal to more cosmopolitan audiences.

Always remember to check with a non-profit before using its name or collecting monies on its behalf. These entities are bound by particular laws and procedures that dictate the manner in which they solicit and receive funds.

You may raise awareness and encourage donations for your selected cause by providing the organization with electronic exposure, including blogs, website links, and social media campaigns. Plan to include them in your company and/or event advertising. Make time for them to address your attendees. Non-profit organizations often enjoy the patronage of high-profile individuals who will volunteer to speak on behalf of the charity. Such an appearance could do much to draw attendees to your event.

Formulate a strategy to facilitate a long-term partnership with an organization rather than just making a one-time donation. This creates greater value for the non-profit and provides your company or association with many opportunities to brand itself in conjunction with a particular cause. In this way, your clients and attendees will come to anticipate news about your charitable partner and perhaps look for ways in which they can assist the same organization in their own communities.

One of the keys to making this kind of marketing a success is selecting a cause that inspires your audience. A green cause may not provide the right tone for the audience you are trying to reach. If this is the case, then select an appropriate cause, and find a way to green your contribution to that organization.

Recently, the DS Group here in Las Vegas did just that. The company provides expert witnesses for litigation and markets itself to the legal and insurance communities. When DS hosted its quarterly business mixer in August, it decided to incorporate philanthropy marketing. While the company is committed to sustainable business practices, it felt that “Going Green” was not the best cause to attract its client base. It themed its event “Old School Back to School” and worked with a nostalgic Las Vegas restaurant, the Golden Steer, to benefit a Title I elementary school. In order to sustain its commitment to green, DS is working with local businesses to collect reusable dry erase boards for individual students, which will cut down on the school’s use of paper, thereby saving the environment and decreasing the school’s operating budget.

Giving to the community and the environment makes everyone feel good. People will leave your event feeling that they are a part of something that matters. That is just good, green business!

Green tip for September:
Organize a hands-on activity to benefit your cause during the course of the show and leave your organization’s mark on the community. If visiting a convention city, reach out to local representatives of a charity and find out how you can help. A volunteer event will bond attendees in a way that a cocktail mixer cannot. Remember to invite the press to report on the event. A volunteer success story is a wonderful tool to help build corporate culture and reinforce organizational values.

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