5 Slam Dunk Cause Marketing Programs for Local Nonprofits

Succeed Right in Your Neighborhood

Marlo Thomas buying toys at the KMart and St Jude Children's Research Hospital 's Thanks and Giving fundraising campaign.
Marlo Thomas on a shopping spree to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital patients as part of Kmart's annual St. Jude Thanks and Giving fundraising campaign. Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images Entertainment

Cause marketing has made such a splash over the last several years. It seems everyone wants to get in on the action, from charities large and small to companies wanting to give back and polish up their CSR reputations. 

So how can small, local nonprofits add cause marketing to their fundraising programs? 

They need two things: a business partner and the right cause marketing program. 

Finding a business partner can be challenging as they all bring different opportunities and limitations.

For example, a  coffee shop has lots of foot traffic, but it sees many of the same customers day after day.

Asking for a donation at a coffee shop register gets old quickly,  if not annoying, for customers.

In short, you may need to use one or more different tactics to hit your fundraising goal.

That's not a problem, however, because I have five cause marketing programs for you. Any of them would be an excellent choice for your organization.

Use one or more of these easy programs for your next cause marketing program.

  1. Coin canisters.

    A coin canister promotion is a simple program that any business can do if they have lots of foot traffic from cash-paying customers.

    If you're just starting a cause marketing program with a company, this is an excellent first fundraiser. You can raise good money with coin canisters. I worked with a business that raised $25,000 in a little over a year with coin canisters!

    Tip: Target busy stores where cash is king. A car dealership or jewelry store is not the right place for coin canisters. A grocery store works better.

  1. Pinups.
    Store cashiers sell pinups (also known as paper icons)  for a buck or two. We've all seen the paper Shamrocks hanging in stores for the Muscular Dystrophy Association around St. Patrick's Day.

    Pinups are by far the most lucrative cause marketing strategy. Local nonprofits can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars with pinups right in their own backyard.

    Tip: Target businesses with lots of locations and foot traffic. The busier the area and the more stores involved, the better the results.

  1. Purchase-triggered donations.

    With this program, a business donates a portion or percentage from the sale of product(s) to your cause.

    A variation of this type of campaign is check-out charity, where shoppers add a donation to their bill when they check out. A beautiful example of this kind of campaign is the Thanks and Giving Campaign by KMart and St. Jude Childen's Research Hospital.

    We've participated in check-out charity, especially at grocery stores. Consumers seem to like it. A study found that more than half of people who gave in this way said they enjoyed it.

    Tip: The nonprofit's name and work should resonate with consumers. In short, these programs are best for nonprofits with a higher profile or for urgent appeals.

  2. Shopping day.
    Nonprofits located near a downtown shopping district should ask local stores to host a shopping day. On a particular day, the businesses sell pinups and/or offer purchase-triggered donations.

    You can also create a shop walk with these stores. Shoppers raise money for your cause and get a special bag. When they show it in participating stores, they get a discount.

    Tip: It's important to activate the businesses on one day or over a weekend. That creates a big splash and makes the program more fun and appealing to everyone. 

  1. Facebook likes.

    If you're looking for an online cause marketing program, try Facebook likes. Whenever someone "likes" your page on Facebook, a company makes a donation to your cause. 

    For instanceHouston-based Rice Epicurean Markets donated $1 for each Facebook like to an area cause; and Budlight went all Superbowl for a dog rescue group.

    Tip: This program is best for nonprofits that already have a large and engaged Facebook audience. 

    If you're a local nonprofit, it's best to think local. Watch what the big, national charities do and then create something similar with your local businesses. These five programs have proven to be the best choices for you and your local business partners.