Measuring Cause

Cause marketing is ubiquitous. It’s no longer a nice-to-do, it’s a have-to-do, as we often say. Yet, as companies hop on the bandwagon in an increasingly crowded space, why, we implore you, are so few measuring their efforts? 

As Ad Age points out this week in “ Yes, There Is an ROI for Doing Good,” “While the cynical outlook, repeated endlessly across the blogosphere, is that cause marketing is all about making money, perhaps the more mature, post-cynical outlook is, yes, of course it is, and, well, it should be.”

We find successful cause programs deliver on both the business and social promises they make, but it continues to be surprising that companies, even major brands, may rely on little more than instincts and estimates to determine whether a program is effective.

As the cause space becomes increasingly competitive and with the threat of an unstable economy looming over us, CFOs will be tightening their grips on earmarked funds.  So, companies must prove their cause initiatives are paying off now and in the future.  Through Cone’s Social Business Return Indicator, our approach to calculating the bottom-line social and business returns from cause initiatives, we offer some practical advice for effective measurement:

Start early: Don’t wait until your cause program is underway to start worrying about calculating its return.  Think about measures for success as soon as possible to ensure the proper systems are in place for collecting the right information. 

Focus on the bottom line: What’s most important to a company?  Increased revenues and reduced costs.  If your cause program doesn’t impact either, it will be challenged throughout your organization and will never be regarded as critical to the company.

Drive and measure the social bottom line: Whatever your cause, the program ultimately needs to impact the issue you choose to champion.  It’s the degree to which monies donated, hours volunteered, etc. improve the cause that drives the social bottom line.

Don’t be afraid to rethink your strategy: The beauty of measurement is that it acts like a crystal ball.  If the glimpse into the future isn’t all you hoped it would be, reallocate time and money to the programs that are most effective. 


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