Volunteer Nation

We often talk about consumers’ inclination to purchase cause-related products, but Cone’s 2008 Cause Evolution Study found that a corporate-nonprofit partnership is also a valuable tool for activating consumers in other important ways. After learning about such a partnership, 42 percent of Americans are more likely to tell a friend about the charity, 36 percent are more willing to donate money and 23 percent are more likely to donate their time to volunteer for a cause.

Time is a precious commodity in today’s 24/7 society, so it is hardly surprising that volunteerism falls toward the bottom of the spectrum. What is somewhat troubling is the “service gap” that Porter Novelli’s latest Styles research uncovered. It shows a significant difference between the causes Americans find personally relevant and those to which they are most likely to give their time- up to a 64-point gap for certain causes. This disconnect, and 2009’s strong call for service by all sectors, presents a great opportunity for companies and their nonprofit partners to take their cause programs to the next level and to better engage consumers beyond product sales and donations.

Our friends at VolunteerMatch offer some volunteer activation tips:

  • Align your brand with volunteering- REI encourages customers to “get dirty” with environmental volunteering.
  • Host a branded cause marketing Web site that encourages volunteerism- Pedigree’s Web site encourages consumers to adopt a pet or volunteer at their local animal shelter.
  • Become a leader in corporate social responsibility- Inspire greater good by providing resources. FastWeb Volunteers provides inspiring tips for how students can use their experience to apply for college scholarships.
  • Build brand equity while doing good- Brand your volunteer program to ensure you are gaining equity with your efforts, such as MINI USA has done with its MINI Motoring Heart badges.
  • Track and manage incentive programs- Starbucks offers free coffee for a community service pledge, and tracks progress on its Web site.
  • Join other socially responsible companies- MySpace’s Impact program has partnered with VolunteerMatch to create VolunteerSpace, where users can seek opportunities to donate their time.


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