January 10, 2013 Jon Van Til
The NonProfit Times, a bit uncertainly and without the gloss and color that now grace its pages, made its first appearance early in 1987. Within months of the debut, the nonprofit world had been fundamentally transformed. And barely two years later, communism would fall in Eastern Europe and a whole set of global political and economic realities would be fundamentally reshaped. The launch of The NPT, its readers will be relieved to know, had almost nothing to do with these fundamental changes. But the public emergence of "cause-related marketing" in 1987, and the rediscovery of the idea of "civil society" during the revolt against communism throughout Eastern Europe in 1989, continue to challenge and reshape the way the nonprofit organization is conceived and evaluated. They form my two nominations for the most fundamental shifts in the world of nonprofit action since the founding of the NPT. Cause related marketing Cause-related marketing has been practiced by American corporations since the 1960s, when the Insurance Company of America guaranteed a contribution to CARE with every policy it sold. The practice became a matter of some controversy in the nonprofit field in 1987, following on a highly visible American Express campaign to donate a penny from each card use to the restoration fund for the Statue of Liberty. Card use increased by 28 percent within a year, and more than $2 million was raised for the fund. Maurice G. Gurin, the late and pioneering fundraising consultant, warned in 1987 that the introduction of cause-related marketing practices might come to represent "an almost irresistible temptation for hard-pressed organizations, and for the fundraisers that serve them." Gurin warned, "With the foresight of lemmings bent on self-destruction … increasing numbers of fundraisers have been welcoming marketing into the fundraising fold. Welcoming is an understatement: they have become zealous proselytes of this doctrinal import from Madison Avenue; they are preaching its gospel."