Supporting communities with cause marketing

Cause marketing has been around since 1976 when Marriott partnered with the March of Dimes to raise funds and celebrate the grand opening of a new amusement park. The promotion ran in 67 cities and was wildly successful for both the charity and the company.

Cause marketing goes beyond the standard campaigns about products and services. It helps highlight community investment partnerships and drive value for both partners and return on investment for businesses.

I would like to highlight cause marketing campaigns by Canadian Tire and Always which target social concerns that aim to drive a behavioral change.

For Canadian Tire, they’re encouraging children and youth in communities across Canada to play more and be active. It isn’t connected to raising money for their Jumpstart Charities, but knowing that they support kids through Jumpstart gives the message authenticity. Following on the success of their ‘We All Play for Canada’ advertisement, they recently launched a second commercial in support of this cause called ‘Wanna Play.’

Always has been engaged in a global education campaign for girls in puberty for 30 years. They partner with UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations to educate girls around the world. In a recent study, Always discovered that girls lose confidence during puberty, so they started their Epic Battle #likeagirl campaign.Their goal is to inspire, empower and educate girls to break free from negative gender stereotypes. Supported by six videos, they are reaching out to change social convention to make anything that is done ‘like a girl’ is a compliment, not an insult. Take a look at their latest video that they are airing in 25 markets around the world:

Both of these campaigns have been successful in starting the dialogue on their respective issues. As a mother, these campaigns hit close to home. I restrict screen time for my children and send them to play in the backyard as often as possible. And as for doing things #likeagirl, I make an effort not to categorize any behaviour or activity towards either gender.

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Going from Community Giving to Investing

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Can you name five corporations that have excellent community programs? Do their efforts affect where you take your business or where you want to work?

Corporate Community Investment has evolved a lot over the last decade as companies look to leverage their brand with customers and in the communities in which they operate. This is why it is important that the charities that companies support align with their values and business profile.

When corporations invest in communities strategically they can drive value for both their brand and for the organizations they support. When you think about Tim Horton’s or Canadian Tire, you know that they support programs for kids. They both have signature programs that are run by their own charitable foundations. These foundations are supported by the company of course, but also by the company’s customers and employees.

Customers expect companies to give back to the community and will support these causes if they believe that the company is authentic in its support. This is why so much money is raised on Camp Day at Tim’s and Jumpstart Day at Canadian Tire.

It’s overwhelming each year to see how our guests come together to support the Foundation. On Camp Day, buying a cup of coffee and participating in the many activities helps contribute to a positive change in a child’s life. And that’s a good feeling. Bill Moir, President, Tim Horton Children’s Foundation

The role employees have in supporting community programs has grown significantly as well. Corporations encourage employees to contribute both money and time to charitable causes, either of their own choosing or for the company’s signature program.

Many corporations have an annual employee giving campaign in support of United Way or other charities. If the corporation’s signature program aligns with the culture of the company, this campaign can engage employees and provide something for employees to rally around.

Employee volunteering programs benefit the company with employee engagement and retention, the charity with needed hands and skills for projects, and employees with team events and building leadership skills. Such events further strengthen the company’s place in the community, and in some cases provides public or media exposure to both the organization and charity.

Charities have had to evolve with the increase of Corporate Community Investment. Instead of simply receiving cash or products they now work with the company to develop a meaningful, and potentially ongoing partnership; a partnership that has to meet the needs of both the charity and the company. This leads to more people understanding the charitable mission, while companies are able to draw an emotional connection to their brand.

There are a lot of great examples of Corporate Community Leaders in all industries. You can check them some of them out at Imagine Canada.

Let’s celebrate community giving!

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What I’ve enjoyed most about working in various Community Relations roles throughout my career is connecting with amazing people who are out there creating opportunities to build up communities. These people and the organizations they support or work for are catalysts for hope on a never ending journey to improve their community and the lives of people around them.

This year with my son starting Senior Kindergarten, true to my nature, I volunteered for the big fundraiser of the year, the Family Fun Fair. It’s been a while since I’ve approached people and companies for donations so I was surprisingly feeling a little daunted. After being on the other side of the request for so long, my first thought went to corporate policies, knowing how businesses try to focus their giving, and for large corporations, their desire to demonstrate impact with community investments. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, a lot of good can be done with long term, collaborative partnerships.

In the case of the Family Fun Fair committee, we were a small but dedicated group of volunteers. What was needed the most was simply the people to take the time to make the requests of local businesses. I thought this would be difficult for a working parent like me, but after some on-line research in the evenings, I headed out with request in hand on a few Saturdays and started pitching to restaurants, dance studios and other companies in the area.

As Torontonians, we are proud of and appreciate the many different and distinct areas of our city, each one being a little community within itself. This concept of community in a big city became more apparent to me in my conversations with the employees, managers and owners of these businesses. Most were more than happy to support a local school and in many cases, support more than one of the local schools.

I’ve always believed that every little bit helps, and that is what drove me to repeatedly knock on doors on my paper route to sell cookies, chocolate covered almonds (by World’s Finest Chocolates – they’re still around today!), and magazines to support my school when I was young.

Getting involved in fundraising for my son’s school has given me more people to celebrate. All donations, no matter how large or small help make a difference.