Giving Back: Partner Your Business With a Cause for Win-Win Results

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that almost 63 million Americans volunteered for a non-profit organization last year. If you have a passion for giving back and a business you need to market, this is for you. Partnering your small business with a local or national charity might be the perfect solution to get your business off the ground in a philanthropic way.

Choosing a Cause to Partner With

There's a name for this type of charity-business collaboration; the U.S. Small Business Association calls it "Cause Marketing," and they offer specific guidelines on how to effectively and legally make the connection. First, choose a cause or organization connected to your community—something your clientele and the people in your area will care about. Before taking any more steps, you should also ensure the organization you choose has a tax-exempt status with the IRS.

If you're going to make this work, you shouldn't just choose a cause your clients feel strongly about. It has to be something you care about, too, because working out a partnership, planning events or dealing with cause-related issues will mean spearheading the cause itself. If you're not passionate about it, that seem like a big fat chore.

Brand your Campaign

Even if you're a small business partnering with a small local charity, you should name and brand your campaign immediately. This simplifies the advertising process, and perhaps more importantly, gives you and your customers an easy way to refer to your fundraising efforts. Branding your campaign also makes it more likely that your efforts will generate attention from the press, according to

Take your Non-Profit Partner Seriously

In a Forbes interview, Brooke Golden, an employee for Clif Bar, said it's essential for businesses in a cause marketing partnership not to sell their charity short. "Nonprofits have passionate followers and key relationships and networks that may not otherwise be accessible to brands or companies," Golden said. "They have strengths in... relationships that can work hard for brands and brand partnerships."

In other words, if you treat your relationship with a cause like a charity that should merely be thankful for your support, that attitude is likely to backfire on you. Community members, non-profit coordinators, and your clients can sense if you're just in it for the free advertising, netting less-than-favorable publicity. Instead, treat the partnership as just that—a partnership. Work with them on collaborative goals, and you'll figure out how to generate a win-win scenario for both sides.

Getting Attention

Once you've decided which charity to partner with, now is the time to get a bit of attention. The best way to start? Write press releases and submit them to local news agencies and newspapers. Create flyers and brochures, talk about it on your website and social media and include information in your email campaigns.

Some companies choose to partner with a well-known organization or celebrity backing a cause they believe in. Joss & Main, an American home goods retailer, partnered up with Nicholas Sparks' Curate for a Cause. No matter your choice, your goal here is to let people know what you're doing. Whether you're allowing customers to make an extra donation with their purchases, or recruiting assistants for a special event like a fundraising run or directly sponsoring your non-profit, make everything clear.

About the author

Media buyer, advertising guru, business freelance writer


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