Causing A Movement To Develop Revenue

CHICAGO — Nonprofit leaders not actively engaged with renewal face the danger of their organizations’ obsolescence. Cause marketing and branding is not about feel good and forgotten.

With those words from David Hessekiel, founder of the Cause Marketing Forum (CMF), several hundred of the nation’s top cause marketing experts heard case studies and shared ideas at the organization’s 2014 conference, “Innovating for Impact.” He warned marketers that terms such as authenticity and transparency are overused and losing their effectiveness.

He said markets need to ask better questions, such as:

1. Why are we doing this at all; and,

2. What if, being open to the possibilities of bold, new initiatives.

He ceded the podium to Jeremy Heimans, co-founder and CEO of the agency Purpose in New York City. Successful campaigns are those run by executives who think like movement builders who use purpose-driven marketing. But, it’s hard for consumers to tell the good guys from the bad guys these days, said Heimans.

He gave the example of the green movement and the clutter in that area. He posted logos of organizations that look remarkably similar from both environmental organizations and some of the nation’s most notorious polluters. He argued that there is market saturation and language used so often that it is too familiar to be effective. There are also those out there to deceive and that hurts the message of the true environmentalists.

Heimans presented a video of a public service ad in support of carbon dioxide with the tag line: “They call it pollution, we call it life.” The video gave numerous examples of how carbon dioxide is vital to the economy and to the environment. “Consumers are getting smarter,” he said, and not falling for many such public service ads. Purpose must be built into brands and they must invite participation.

Marketers must avoid declaring victory too prematurely and the stakes must be high for consumers to notice. He gave as an example the retail chain CVS which stopped selling tobacco products at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue. CVS is also an example of being in something for the long-term.

These days there is little standing between consumers, funders and charities, Charles Best, founder of the crowdsourcing nonprofit donorschoose.org, told the audience. “It’s a new marketplace. Gatekeepers don’t stand in your way,” he said. Donorschoose.org started with a barebones website for 11 small projects and now has raised close to $250 million for projects one donor at a time.