93% of Americans surveyed had a more positive image of companies who supported a cause. So why do so many young companies resist giving back?
Cause Marketing, Strategic Philanthropy, Charitable Giving, “It just doesn’t seem. . . authentic,” countered a prospective client. We had broached the polarizing topic of cause marketing. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that, especially from start-ups or recently funded ventures, I’d be rich. Promoting values that your company shares with your audiences, whether you call it cause marketing, strategic philanthropy, or anything else, is not evil. It is in essence a business process, but it also makes a real impact on important causes—like it or not, philanthropy and long- term profit are interdependent.
I’m not talking about writing a check and walking away. Successful giving initiatives take time, research, and commitment. Supporting philanthropic endeavors, especially those important to your target audiences, provides those looking to buy from, hire or work for your company, a quick summary of who you are and what you stand for. All other things equal, it is difference between you or your competitor getting what it wants. Philanthropy is part of your identity in the same way as a logo or mission statement (you know, that thing it took you two years to write). According to this year’s IEG marketing report, cause spending is projected to total 1.8 billion dollars in the United States (a 3.4% increase over 2013). Here are a few examples:
George Jenkins, the founder of Publix Supermarkets felt strongly about causes to lift the human spirit. Nationally, Publix supports five cause organizations: Special Olympics, March of Dimes, Children’s Miracle Network and Untied Way of America, and Food for All. On a local level, each store has a community budget to support customer requests for youth sports, education, public art, and hungry/homeless. Store managers even have the latitude to support what customers deem important if it’s not on “the list”. Giving back has been a key factor in the tremendous growth of that company and is, in fact, an integral part of Publix culture.
Another example is TOMS, a shoe manufacturer committed to providing shoes to kids that don’t have them. TOMS has become synonymous with that cause. The consumer is making a subtle statement by wearing the shoes, which also look nice and sustain a business.
AVEDA’s mission is to “care for the world we live in, from the products we make to the ways in which we give back to society and set an example.” This identity gives customers an incentive to pay more for exclusive products, because they know the products are “natural” and environmentally conscious. Causes inject brands with real value.
Look at some of the A-list brands you use everyday and tell me if you find a single one that doesn’t allocate a percentage of profits to causes important to their company’s success.
Sharing the fruits of your success will become even more important as the trend toward higher consumer consciousness of brands’ contributions to causes expands, especially among millennials. If your company has its eye on this next generation of customers and employees, establishing a formalized giving initiative will allow you to manage and measure where and how your dollars are being used.
Here are the facts – now you decide.
2014 DOING WELL BY DOING GOOD—NIELSEN
Percent willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact:
- Global Average; 55% in2014, up 10% from 2011
- North America: 42% in 2014, up 7% from 2011
Conclusions from the Achieve MILLENIAL IMPACT REPORT, funded by the Case Foundation:
“Companies need to build relationships with Millennial employees from the beginning to spark their passions and create opportunities to engage both their professional and personal interests. Employers should develop a triple platform of involvement – company-wide, department-based and interest-driven – through the workplace.”
- Company cause work influenced them to accept a job: 63% female, 45% male
2013 CONE COMMUNICATIONS SOCIAL IMPACT STUDY—THE NEXT CAUSE EVOLUTION 
Found that an overwhelming percentage of the American consumer (93%) had a more positive image of companies who supported a cause. Read more of the report to find the opinions of rising demographics’— Millenials, African Americans, and Hispanics.