Small, Young Non-Profit? You – Yes, YOU, Can Run A Cause Marketing Campaign!

As I type this, my organization Big Love Little Hearts is about a week shy of our 10 month anniversary. I’m beginning with this fact because I hear a lot of young non-profits lament that they’re too small, too green, too you name it to embark on a Cause Marketing Campaign. I don’t know if this is because there’s not a clear understanding of what cause marketing really is, or if it’s because most non-profits assume that the only suitable partners for a CM campaign are giants like American Airlines or Pepsi. I’m here to tell you that any organization can run a cause marketing campaign, no matter how small or young you are!

If you don’t feel like you’re familiar with what constitutes cause marketing and what doesn’t, head over to Joe Waters’ excellent blog, Selfish Giving, my favorite (and hands-down best) resource on the topic out there and educate yourself.

Back yet? Okay…now that we’re all on the same page regarding what exactly cause marketing is I want to share how we successfully implemented a CM program at Big Love Little Hearts this past February when were just under 8 months old.

Awareness Week for Congenital Heart Defects is February 7-14, with our official Awareness Day falling on Valentine’s Day. My cause community is very lucky that this falls during a huge consumer holiday. Like any good student of marketing (I got my non-profit education at Kellogg) I sought to take advantage of this. We came up with a program called Eat Your Heart Out, where participating restaurants gave us $1 from every check on Valentine’s Day or some other night during the week of February 7-14. When they presented the check to the customer they included an Awareness Card that talked about heart defects, CHD Awareness Week and Big Love Little Hearts.

We didn’t begin recruiting potential partners until January yet very easily managed to forge relationships with restaurants from two major groups in Chicago: Francesca’s and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Of the many restaurants we recruited the most fruitful was HUB51 because they were open on Valentine’s Day from brunch through dinner. This netted us the most donations and biggest awareness impact but all of our participants were a successful partnership. It cost us nothing to print up the awareness cards, we created no fancy presentation for potential restaurant partners, we raised a fair amount of money and most importantly gained exposure among an audience we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Eat Your Heart Out was so successful for us that we’re not only expanding the scope of it in Chicago (our home base), we’re also rolling it out in at least 5 more cities next year (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and Atlanta). We plan to start recruiting partners much earlier this time around (in October of this year when restaurants are planning their 2011 first quarter budgets) – with this increased time to plan and lessons learned, we expect to raise several thousand more dollars than we did this year and to reach several thousand more people.

This is an example that can easily be adapted for your cause during your awareness week or any other special day of your choosing. It can be done on a small or large scale and requires virtually no budget or staff time. It is cause marketing at its simplest and promotes awareness in ways that many cause marketing campaigns don’t. Feel free to steal the idea outright or use it as a jumping board to brainstorm a simple and effective campaign for your own non-profit. Whatever you do, just bring your brain around to the idea that cause marketing is for you, no matter how small or young your organization is!


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