Joe Waters is Director of Cause & Event Marketing for a Boston

By Lynn Hall,2014-01-20 22:05
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Joe Waters is Director of Cause & Event Marketing for a Boston

To hear a compelling argument against BUYING in order to GIVE, visit: And for those who say a buck’s a buck for a guy in trouble,

    read on: Joe Waters is Director of Cause & Event Marketing for a Boston-based nonprofit.

    The views expressed at Selfish Giving are his alone, and to tell him what you think, Joe says:

    Email Me

    Posted Monday, March 05, 2007

    In Defense of Cause Marketing

    Katya's Non-Profit Marketing Blog has an

    excellent summary and critique of the Buy (Less) Crap movement that

    everyone's been talking about. The Buy Less folks are parodying the

    RED campaign to advocate that "Shopping Is Not A Solution. Buy

    (Less). Give More."

    Katya's done a great job of separating fact from fiction in the debate,

    and you can read other good commentaries at Trent Stamp, Marketing

    For Good and IdUnited. As a cause marketer, I know my comments

    are suspect, and are a bit like getting no smoking tips from Philip

    Morris. So bear with me as I take a few deep drags.

    Cause marketing is a bright, impressive, incredible...blip. Cause

    marketing is certainly cool and seems to be everywhere, but it's just a

    blip in terms of dollars raised for most organizations. Funds raised

    from corporate fundraising--of which cause marketing is just a sliver,

    mind you--only comprise 5-15% of the total dollars raised by

    nonprofits. Where does the rest of the really serious dough come

    from? The very people Buy Less likes most: Individuals who donate

    directly to the organization. It's understandable that Buy Less wants

    as many people as possible to donate directly to nonprofits instead of

    through cause marketing programs, but who's left? The five percent

    of donors who prefer to make their gift by buying t-shirts at the GAP?

Cause marketing is just another tool. At my nonprofit we raise

    money in lots of different ways--major gifts, grants, corporate giving,

    direct mail, special events and cause marketing. I list cause marketing

    last because it really is just another tool and not the only tool we use

    to raise money. If Buy Less believes there's an insidious conspiracy

    afoot to topple direct giving they really need to stop watching 24. It's

    like back in '99 when I thought the printed newsletter we relied on

    each month would soon die and everything would be on the

    web. Today, that printed newsletter is very much alive, as are the

    newsletters for email, web and mobile. The pie's not any bigger; it's

    just been cut in to smaller slices. And if you're full service shop not

    doing cause marketing, you're leaving money on the table, but not


    Cause marketing is not about the money. Buy Less has

    complained that RED is spending more money than it's raised, which is

    a valid criticism if you believe that cause marketing is only about

    raising money, which I don't believe it is. Don't get me wrong,

    money's great, but cause marketing delivers so much more. It

    increases visibility. It builds brand. It creates wealth. Look at the

    exposure RED has generated for the plight of AIDS victims in

    Africa. Look at how well known and respected RED has become as a

    charity in less than a year. Finally, consider this: how many major

    donors have stepped forward to support RED's mission, even if it was

    by making gifts to competing organizations? How many foundations

    are taking a second look at Africa because of RED? They say that RED

    has spent $100 million to raise $18 million in donations. Time will

    show that the investment was a good one.

    Cause marketing is a great way to buy the things we need. Buy

    Less would have people believe that RED shoppers are buying "crap"

    and other useless things. Things like t-shirts, sneakers, cell phones,

    music, sunglasses, watches, jeans, etc. Pretty decadent and useless

    stuff, no? Cause marketers generally tap the most mainstream of

    products--I just heard of a campaign involving Clorox Bleach--because

    that's how you can reach the most shoppers. So we're not talking

    about a lot of products that are "crap" or extravagant. We're talking

    about things people love, need and use everyday.

    Cause marketing is an important fundraising vehicle that raises

    modest money, enhances visibility, builds brand and enables other

    forms of fundraising, particularly major gifts and grants. It's also an

    easy way for consumers to buy the things they need while supporting

    their favorite causes. If that makes cause marketing wrong, I'd rather

    not be (right).

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