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Chances are, you started up a corporate giving program because you care about one or more causes and want to make a difference – whether your goal is to help eradicate a disease, provide a warm meal or shelter for those in need, or clean up the environment. Just participating may seem to be reward enough, but measuring and promoting your program’s effectiveness is a wise business strategy.

There are a number of stakeholders who will benefit by learning the program’s results:

  • The partnering nonprofit organization
  • The individuals who are the end recipients of donations and volunteer efforts
  • Your employees
  • Your board of directors
  • Your customers who contribute to your cause program
  • Community members

Promoting the results gives a positive boost to all those involved and encourages ongoing effort.  It also enables you to make adjustments during the process to better reach your goals, and to help you assess at year’s end whether to continue the cause relationship.

First, decide what you want your corporate giving program to accomplish, and then which metrics are important to track. Consider the following areas:

Donations and donors

Generate enthusiasm by setting a financial goal and a timeline. In many cases, the nonprofit organization can help you determine your first year’s goal based on your company size. For subsequent years, develop a stretch goal that exceeds the previous year.  Track online donations through a dedicated landing page on your Web site, or through sites such as GiveMn.org. Keep counts of noncash donations, such as number of toys donated to Toys For Tots or pounds of nonperishable items for food shelves.

Corporate growth and brand perception

Determine how much your company revenue and brand reputation is benefiting from your cause promotion by gathering a variety of metrics and other information, such as:

  • Leads generated from cause marketing efforts tracked through unique toll-free numbers, URLs or “how heard” questions
  • Sales trend (over  five years, if possible)
  • Share value trend (over five years)
  • Customer testimonials
  • Focus groups and customer surveys on brand perception

Employee satisfaction, loyalty and recruitment

According to the 2009 Corporate Citizenship Study, 56% of survey respondents believe that working for a socially responsible employer makes a difference. Determine the effects of your corporate social responsibility program by measuring the following:

  • Employee satisfaction through surveys conducted before the program’s initiation and annually thereafter
  • Annual contribution of employee volunteer time, five-year trend
  • Employee growth, five-year trend
  • Employee retention, five-year trend

Include the above results in your annual report or as a separate corporate social responsibility report. Round out hard data with testimonials from a representative of your nonprofit partner organization, customers, employees and community members.

- LuAnne Speeter

Related post: Enrich the lives of your employees with socially responsible efforts

apple in the handMost companies have a corporate mission statement. Sometimes they’re rather predictable, like Dell’s:

“Dell’s mission is to be the most successful computer company in the world at delivering the best customer experience in markets we serve.”

Other mission statements are more inspired and true-to-brand, like Coca-Cola’s:

“To refresh the world…to inspire moments of optimism and happiness…to create value and make a difference.”

But consumers today are often seeking more than a corporate mission from the companies they do business with. Studies show they’re more likely to buy from companies who stand for something of social or environmental value. (See “5 steps to enhance your brand with cause marketing.”)

At the same time, many businesses are proactively seeking to make a difference in their communities – or even globally – beyond the visions and values that comprise their corporate mission. In many cases, that may require adding a social mission into the mix.

A social mission ties your social initiatives to your corporate mission and gives them authenticity. While your corporate mission communicates how your company makes a difference through its profits, your social mission addresses your commitment to having an impact beyond profit.

Starbucks is an example of a company with two missions. We’re familiar with the corporate:

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit— one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”

The company’s social mission is evident, not only through its environmental mission statement –

 “Starbucks is committed to a role of environmental leadership in all facets of our business”

– but also in other prominent features on its Web site: A home page video about The Food Project, Starbucks Shared Planet project and its customizable Global Responsibility Report.

Ben & Jerry’s, an organization renowned for its social activism, has not one, not two, but three parts to its mission statement: social, product and economic. Speaking at the 2009 CECP Corporate Philanthropy Summit, Ben & Jerry’s CEO Walt Freese stated that “a company’s overall marketing mission should be separate from its social mission even if they at times join forces. Consumers need to understand that your social mission is coming from a genuine place.”

When determining your own social mission and initiatives, choose what works well with your corporate mission and your core products and services. For example, Western Union’s core service and tagline, “Connecting families around the world,” is in perfect unison with its Our World, Our Family program. Such authenticity will only enhance your brand reputation while contributing to the greater good.

- LuAnne Speeter

I’ve used a lot of “ink” in past posts talking about the dividends that corporate social responsibility returns to a company – e.g., enhancing the brand, attracting quality employees, generating “buzz” and increasing revenue.

However, you’re doing more than you know for a cause by partnering with nonprofits. The impact you have goes well beyond your investment of money, time or other resources.

In Cone’s new study, “Past, Present, Future. The 25th Anniversary of Cause Marketing,” it’s revealed that “many Americans stated they were more likely to lend support and advocate for a charity upon learning about its corporate partnerships.”

Specifically,

 

More Likely

Less Likely

No Difference

Tell a friend about the charity

42%

8%

50%

Donate money to the charity

36%

9%

55%

Participate in the charity’s programs and events

29%

9%

62%

Volunteer for the charity

23%

11%

66%

Source: Cone, LLC

 

To increase effectiveness, companies should consider committing to a long-term (minimum three-year) relationship with a nonprofit. Your relationship should consist of more than fundraising – consider providing resources as well, such as products, services or expertise that the organization may otherwise not have access to. For example, Datagram donates Web hosting services to the nonprofit charity:water.

By partnering with other companies, businesses can be an even more formidable force in achieving results for a nonprofit or government agency. Business Roundtable, an association of 160 chief executive officers of leading U.S. corporations, launched Partnership for Disaster Response shortly after the Asian tsunami. The Partnership draws from the unique resources of its member companies to provide relief and recovery in the event of a natural disaster.

While the Partnership for Disaster Response is comprised of top Fortune 500 corporations, even small to midsized businesses can form coalitions to solve many of the needs of a community, county or state. For example, several businesses could jointly sponsor Thanksgiving dinner for community members in need, each company providing different services, from food, kitchen help and servers to publicity and bus shuttles.

View your corporate social responsibility program as relationships – not just performing an activity or fulfilling an obligation. By doing so, you’ll better appreciate the rewards that go both ways.

- LuAnne Speeter

Is your marketing too shallow?

Today’s consumers are weary of obvious salesy rhetoric and ignore a majority of the bazillion ads they encounter every day. And as the recession wears on and unemployment rates remain high, many are reevaluating their life choices, turning from materialistic interests and seeking deeper meaning for greater satisfaction.

Some companies are acknowledging this search for meaning and are finding creative ways to provide greater value in their marketing. The marketing itself is improving consumers’ lives by helping them meet deeper needs while helping to enhance the brand name.

Are consumers in general more “enlightened” than in previous generations? You wouldn’t know if by watching “Bridezillas,” but there are signs that consumers are more evolved than we give them credit for. It’s obvious, for example, that green living is no longer just a grassroots movement but a corporate mission for most companies. And a recent study shows that volunteerism is on the rise.

The drive to find greater personal fulfillment by many in the population was acknowledged decades ago by humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). Maslow defined five levels of human needs that range from the very basic to very high-level. In a nutshell, the five levels are:

  1. Physiological. Needs that are basic to survival, such as water, air, food and sleep
  2. Security. Needs for safety and security, including steady employment, safe neighborhoods, health care insurance, shelter
  3. Social. Needs for belonging, love and affection
  4. Esteem. Needs for things that reflect personal worth, social recognition, accomplishment
  5. Self-actualizing.* Needs for pursuing personal growth and fulfilling one’s potential

*”What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”

- Abraham Maslow, “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Psychological Review 50, 370-96

This hierarchy is brought into a marketing context in a new book due to be released in October 2009. Written by Bob Gilbreath, “The Next Revolution in Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning” encourages marketers to be aware of the different need levels of our audiences and offer value in our marketing to help fulfill them. Gilbreath created a three-tiered marketing hierarchy (yes, another hierarchy) loosely based on Maslow’s.  

Level 1: solution marketing adds value to those seeking to fulfill more basic needs. Such marketing efforts could include money-saving coupons, rebates and rewards programs.

Level 2: connection marketing delivers value to those seeking more social or creative expression and corresponds to Maslow’s middle category.

Level 3: achievement marketing is aligned with Maslow’s peak level of self-actualization and seeks to empower people to improve their own lives or communities. Gilbreath points to a few campaigns, such as Home Depot’s home improvement training, Abbot Nutrition’s online diabetes management tool and Dove Soap’s Campaign for Real Beauty, that help enhance people’s lives while subtly promoting their brand.

Consumers are looking for something worthwhile. If your marketing is offering something worthwhile, chances are good they’ll pay better attention.

- LuAnne Speeter

Businesses choose to exercise their social responsibility through cause marketing for a number of reasons. Hopefully, topping the list in every case is a real desire to help those in need and to improve our world. In addition to such altruistic motives, businesses can also strive to increase sales and build their brand.

The 2008 Cone Cause Evolution Study, among other studies, validates that cause marketing can encourage consumers to view a company’s brand more favorably. In fact, according to the Cone study, 85% of Americans say they have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause that they care about. And, 79% would be likely to switch from one brand to another that supports a good cause.

Before selecting a cause, consider first which causes align best with your brand and target audience. Here are some suggestions for creating a campaign that’s a win-win:

  1. Understand your brand first. Do you have a mission statement that clearly defines your company’s goals? Do you know how your brand is perceived by employees, customers, prospects and competitors?
  2. Select a cause focus area that aligns with your goals. Consider the key areas that Americans want companies to address in their cause programs, also from the Cone study: Education – 80%; Economic development – 80%; Health and disease – 79%; Access to clean water – 79%; Environment – 77%; Disaster relief – 77%; Hunger – 77%
  3. Ensure you have buy-in from senior-level executives. If key employees and other stakeholders don’t believe in your cause, neither will your audience.
  4. Select a clearly identifiable name for your cause. One that is graphic and unites your goal to your organization will be most effective; e.g., American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women and Target Take Charge of Education.
  5. Cement your branded cause marketing with an integrated strategy. Begin at the grassroots level and engage both community members and volunteers through local fundraising events. Communicate through a variety of channels including e-mail marketing, point of sale promotions, a dedicated “micro” website, public service announcements and local celebrity endorsements. Experiment with social media, too, by creating a Facebook page or inviting followers on Twitter.

Perhaps your greatest asset as a business is your reputation. By aligning your brand with socially significant values, you’ll help ensure your corporate viability far into the future.

- LuAnne Speeter

 “You know,” a friend recently said to me, “some philosophers say there is no real altruism. They say that, because philanthropy is motivated by a desire to feel good about oneself, it’s really a selfish act.”

I agree. And the world needs more of that kind of selfishness.

Humans are inclined to derive pleasure from acts of generosity, just as we feel pleasure through other life-affirming activities: love, friendship, celebration, creativity, eating and sleeping, to name a few. I see it as a Darwinian kind of natural selection. If an activity within nature provides pleasure and doesn’t cause harm, the activity will continue to be practiced by members of the species. And if an activity isn’t pleasurable, it won’t be on that species’ top ten list of fun things to do.

There is no universal principle that says generosity must inflict pain (although I used to let my daughter think that so she wouldn’t ask to borrow my car so much).

Applying this to cause marketing, a cynic may contend that a business is being self-serving because it derives benefits from corporate social responsibility. For example, it may enhance its brand perception, increase revenue and allow stakeholders to feel warm and fuzzy. But if the business’s intention is to also do good for the community, it’s a win-win.

In today’s tight economy, it’s hard enough for businesses to be philanthropic.  Let’s not make them feel guilty for feeling good about it.

- LuAnne Speeter

If your business is embarking on promoting a social cause or event, chances are you want to use the most effective yet cost-efficient marketing methods.

I’m a big proponent of e-mail marketing overall. According to the Direct Marketing Association, e-mail marketing is projected to generate a return of $43.52 for every dollar invested in 2009, more than twice as much as non-e-mail Internet marketing and almost three times more than print and other direct marketing. Plus e-mail and online tracking tools provide excellent metrics so you can measure response while learning more about your subscribers’ interests.

If you have already developed good name recognition through an existing e-mail marketing program with a high-quality subscriber list, this is definitely the smart place to start. Here are some tips and best practices to maximize your impact.

  • Promote to your house list using your company name within the subject line. Trust your brand recognition to help get your e-mail opened by subscribers. Be sure to follow authentication procedures and perform a spam filter diagnostic to help ensure deliverability.
  • Include a benefit within the subject line. The immediate incentive is usually how the subscriber can help the cause. For example, “Help stock food shelves with your next online purchase.”
  • Add a link within the e-mail for immediate response. The call to action should be highly visible – perhaps a “button” link that reads “Purchase now – and 5% will go directly to our local food shelf.”
  • Link to a dedicated landing page on your website. The landing page can give greater detail about the promotion and the non-profit organization, and can even link to the organization’s website as a separate page without leaving your site.
  • Integrate with social networks. Include a forward-to-a-friend option to encourage “word-of-mouth” promotion. Your e-mail marketing provider may also offer a “share-to-social” feature so subscribers can share the offer within their social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn.
  • Track results. Check the metrics for clicks and opens, forwards and transactions so you can share results with stakeholders. You may want to do an A/B split and compare results for different subject lines or layouts within your e-mail.

E-mail marketing should be just one component of an integrated cause marketing campaign. It’s a natural option that blends well with your existing e-mail loyalty program for a minimum additional cost. And it can enhance your brand image and bring needed revenue to important social initiatives.

- LuAnne Speeter

Ever heard of Eddie Haskell? On the ‘50s sitcom Leave It to Beaver, he was the teenage friend whose overly polite manner toward Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver couldn’t hide his mean-spirited creepiness.

No company wants to be labeled “the Eddie Haskell of socially responsible companies.” Could that happen to you? Yes, if you’re claiming to be something you’re really not.

To be authentically socially responsible, your actions should be consistent with your corporate goals and culture.  Just posting a non-profit’s logo on your website or claiming to be dedicated to your community’s well-being isn’t enough. Your customers want you to walk the talk; in fact, 67% of American consumers say that a company’s social responsibility is very/extremely influential in deciding to buy a product or service from that company (Fleishman-Hilliard/National Consumers League Study, 2007). And a 2009 study, BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, found that 71% of consumers say they “avoid purchasing from companies whose practices they disagree with.”

Here are some ways to go beyond lip service and ensure your corporate social responsibility is authentic:

Revisit your mission statement. Your mission statement should link your company’s vision and values to your immediate community and beyond.

Solidify your corporate citizenship goals within your brand guidelines to keep them top of mind.

Commitment should be from the C-level on down. And I don’t mean photo ops with an oversized check and a handshake. The community wants to see your CEO with sleeves rolled up taking part in the cause.

Involve employees at all levels. Your employees will be proud to work for a company that lives out its values. Let them participate in choosing your company’s causes and then following through with the events and fundraising.

Consider all of your stakeholders. Communicate the value of your community relationships to your board of directors, investors, vendors and, of course, your customers, and invite them to participate in the events.

Take it to the community. Traditional media coverage is great, but if you want real transparency, bring your social marketing into the social media. Encourage comments and conversation through your corporate blog and other networks such as Facebook, Twitter, relevant LinkedIn groups, etc.

Corporate social responsibility is not an event, tagline or logo – it’s a core business principle. By integrating cause marketing into your corporate culture, you help create a better society while enhancing your brand image and visibility.

What do we expect out of our audience and our marketing? Should the message appeal to the lowest common denominator for all audience members? Or, if we’re truly striving to establish a relationship that requires conscientious decision making, perhaps we could invite the individual to embark on a journey of deepening understanding.

Really good messaging “educates” an audience. So to be effective, you’ll want to understand the different levels of adult learning and moral reasoning. Educators have long based learning models on Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development – that throughout childhood and adolescence, a person’s understanding of reality moves from one stage to the next, each time achieving a higher, more complex level of insight and reasoning.

But for those who want to develop a more socially conscious marketing approach, you may want to consider Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Kohlberg applied Piaget’s theory to moral reasoning, defining it as a continual process that unfolds throughout a person’s lifetime.

According to Kohlberg, humans make moral decisions based on the following levels of reasoning:

Stage 1: Obedience and punishment. Obeying rules are important in order to avoid punishment. This is primarily a child’s reasoning, but applies to many adults in certain situations.

Stage 2: Individualism and exchange. In a moral dilemma, decisions are based on how they serve individual needs. The needs of others may be taken into account, but only if there are reciprocal benefits.

Stage 3: Interpersonal relationships. Decisions are made in order to fulfill a socially expected “role” or in consideration of a relationship.

Stage 4: Maintaining social order. Actions support the need for law and order, respecting authority and doing one’s duty.

Stage 5: Social contract and individual rights. At this stage, individuals acknowledge varying viewpoints and needs existing within a society and seek to agree upon a social order.

Stage 6: Universal principles. Decisions are made to support universal, internalized principles of ethics and justice, even if they conflict with society’s rules.

How does Kohlberg’s theory apply to marketing? It’s critical because to communicate well in marketing, you need to understand those triggers that engage your audience, what messages are internalized and what it takes to move your audience to action.

And if you want to integrate your brand with a social message, you’ll increase your effectiveness by matching your level of conscientious marketing with your audience. Better yet, help your audience move to a higher level of moral reasoning and judgment.

For example, take Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. Through the campaign, Dove seeks to challenge stereotypes about beauty and help raise the self-esteem of girls and young women. Ongoing surveys and marketing efforts are also addressing narrow perceptions of beauty in terms of a woman’s age and weight.

So Dove is attempting to move society to a higher level – perhaps akin to Level 5 – to encourage greater acceptance and appreciation of individualism. It could also be argued that, at the same time, Dove is hoping to enhance its own brand perception. (See blog post on reciprocal altruism.)

The stages of moral reasoning can also be applied to other business marketing considerations, such as your code of ethics or environmental practices. Do you set your standards to simply ensure compliance and avoid a lawsuit, or do you go to the next level by establishing proactive, life-affirming business practices?

 – LuAnne Speeter

The annual Minneapolis Aquatennial Torchlight Parade is still a family event and the route is within walking distance for my 94-year-old dad.  Dad taught us to stand and acknowledge the first time the flag passes by during a parade – it’s okay to keep your butt firmly planted on the curb after that.

So I stand because it’s proper parade etiquette, plus I’m proud of the flag and the country “for which it stands.” Whether it’s carried by the police force, the Aqua Jesters or the Marine Corps, as long as it’s the first pass, I’ll stand.

The flag was a neutral symbol to me when I was very young, not representing any particular political ideology. It was displayed on doorposts during national holidays in my neighborhood, accompanied the Star Spangled Banner as TV stations signed off each night and swathed Haley Mills in “Pollyanna” (although I never got the British accent thing).

But then along came the Vietnam War and many began to see the flag as a symbol of military might. In protests across the country, flag-burning ceremonies sent a shocking but powerful message and America realized that the flag held competing interpretations.

In that era, the flag was “saved” – or “captured,” depending on your viewpoint – by the more politically conservative side of the fence. There it stayed for decades – the American Brand – and those who raised the flag were often characterized as Archie Bunkers.

But over time I realized the flag is not a political position. I may be at odds with the politics of some who wave it, but for me to allow it to represent one viewpoint desecrates what it really stands for – like freedom of speech and the right to disagree. Both progressives and conservatives now lay claim to the term “patriot,” brandish the flag and use it to decorate lapels.

Call me a sap if I stand and choke up when the flag passes by. It’s mine too, so get over it.

- LuAnne Speeter

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