Five Trends in Back-to-School Cause Marketing

The back-to-school shopping landscape is changing dramatically -- 60 percent of tablet users are turning to online instead of hitting the shopping aisles and more than a third of consumers are forgoing the big stock up of supplies all together. As marketers navigate changing consumer shopping habits, many continue to use cause marketing as a way to break through. This year's campaigns run the gambit from traditional in-kind donations to new digital activations and unconventional beneficiaries. Here are a few of the back-to-school cause marketing themes we are seeing this year:

If You Sell It, Give It: It's a natural fit for companies that are in the business of selling school supplies to get involved in back-to-school cause efforts, helping teachers who are increasingly opening their own wallets to equip classrooms. Target, 3M's Command brand and others have lined up to provide much-needed in-kind support through "one-for-one" donations, free school supplies and grants.

Select Nonprofits Lead The Charge: Although back-to-school activations may be diverse, the nonprofit partners are less so. A handful of nonprofits rise to the top when companies look to support the education cause including Kids in Need Foundation, DonorsChoose.org, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and AdpotAClassroom.org. These nonprofits crop up again and again due to their close connections to the education cause, track records and ability to activate in local communities across the U.S.

The Cause Less Traveled: Even as the education trend tends to focus on providing supplies and support to teachers, a few companies are breaking the mold this year with new areas of emphasis. H&M has decided to tackle outfitting underprivileged children with back-to-school clothing, while Kendra Scott focused efforts on "girl-against-girl crime."

Infusing Education and Online: A few organizations are taking new approaches to activations by building in a digital element. Reddit has harnessed its online network to match teachers and donors, while Kleenex is rallying support through online influencer engagement and an interactive microsite for students, parents and teachers.

365 Support: Although back-to-school is an easy moment-in-time for companies to show support for schools, many brands are making more longstanding commitments to the education cause. Google's $50 million "Made with Code" initiative shows the company's pledge to equip young women with the skills to succeed in the tech industry, while Dick's "Sports Matter" effort raises funds for cash-strapped school sports programs throughout the year.

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