An article in the New York Times this week took a critical look at “embedded giving,” or a form of what we call cause marketing. It discusses how nonprofit experts are increasingly wary of the practice of embedding donations into product purchases because such giving is often quite vague and difficult to regulate.
The Attorneys General in more than a dozen states require companies and/or their nonprofit partners to register a cause promotion and disclose all relevant information to protect consumers against potential scams. However, in a severe example, the article points out that some charitable organizations, such as those featured as beneficiaries in the recent Barneys “Give Good Green” catalogue, were not even aware they were listed. One of the greatest potential pitfalls of a cause marketing program is ambiguity, and companies that promote an association with a cause or nonprofit as a marketing ploy, without details about the commitment, are rightly criticized.
Yet, for all the companies capitalizing on a nonprofit's name and reputation just to sell products, there are many companies doing the legwork to develop legitimate collaborations in which everyone—the company, the nonprofit and society—benefits. Companies that work diligently to establish strategic, authentic corporate-nonprofit partnerships will be rewarded with a mutually beneficial relationship that meets the business goals and objectives of both partners. Each partner can also rest assured that its mission and brand will be protected, and ultimately, enhanced, as a result. To guide corporations and nonprofits in their relationship development, Cone has developed a Partnership Bill of Rights, more detail about which can be found on our blog.