Canada’s first cause marketing forum launches this month

publication date: Oct 11, 2014

If you’re considering joining the cause marketing bandwagon, it’s helpful to know the basics. A strictly philanthropic approach, in which a charity asks for corporate support “because we do good work” or “because it’s the right thing for you to do,” won’t give you the tools you need.

Misconceptions are common.

  • Cause marketing means selling out. (It doesn’t, as long as you’re careful to align yourself with the right partner.)
  • Cause marketing only works for big charities with big brands. (It only looks like that because the big charities implemented it first.)
  • Cause marketing is another form of corporate philanthropy. (It’s a business relationship between two parties who can help each other’s business objectives.)

Let’s start with the definition. Sponsorship consultant Brent Barootes, co-author of Reality Check: Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing, says, “Cause marketing involves the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a nonprofit organization for mutual benefit. It generally includes an offer by the sponsor to make a donation to the cause with purchase of its product or service. Corporate philanthropy generally involves a specific donation that is tax-deductible, while cause marketing is a business expense and is expected to show a return on investment.”

Until now, it hasn’t been easy to find training on the language, expectations and tactics of cause marketing. That’s about to change as the Cause Marketing Forum launches its first Canadian conference, Companies and Causes Canada, on October 28 in Toronto. It’s attracted charities with plenty of experience and profile in cause marketing, and even more that are keen to learn.

If we don’t stay on top of trends, the people we serve lose out”

“I understand that cause marketing means win/win/win,” says Arthur Heathcote, a grant writer with the Prairie Division of The Salvation Army who is very new to the concept of cause marketing. “The people our charity serves get the resources and assistance they require, corporations can mobilize their charitable objectives and become active agents of change, and The Salvation Army can continue our programs, and improve their impact and become recognized for producing an economic return on corporate investment.”

He’s keen to network with experienced cause marketers to find out how they capture the impact they create, and demonstrate that value to potential corporate partners. “If we don’t stay on top of what corporate expectations are,” he explains, “the people we serve lose out.”

Victoria Houle of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, has more experience with cause marketing. As Development Manager – Corporate Partnerships, she spearheads both traditional tactics such as donation-with-purchase campaigns and event sponsorship, and newer campaigns that use their corporate partners’ resources to share cause-focused messaging.

Her goals are similar to Arthur’s – staying on top of corporate trends, finding out what makes a good partnership from a corporation’s point of view, and learning how to attract more corporate partners. “We have a fair knowledge of best practices within the cause-marketing arena,” she reflects. “But we know there is much more to learn, as the field evolves quickly. We have to stay on top of these trends and be open to new ways of raising funds and attracting corporate partners that believe in our mission.”

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