A direct marketing bridge to… cause-related marketing and sponsorship

What, you say?  Corporate is a completely different silo in our organization from direct marketing.  It’s not even like major gift officers where they are working from the donor files we create – corporate relationship folks are working directly with C-level execs from companies, not people who started out as $15 donors.

Au contraire, mon ami.*  Direct marketing can be useful in helping secure relationships with companies that didn’t know they wanted to partner with your organization.

The first step is to append your file with as much data as you can get your hands on, if you haven’t already done so.  You are looking for:

  • Demographic data – age, sex, income variables, etc.
  • Political data – which candidates someone gives to is a matter of public record. This has almost nothing to do with reaching out to corporations but is something you should have on file from a data perspective, as people who donated to political campaigns are significantly more likely to donate (and donate more generously) to nonprofits.
  • Purchasing patterns
  • Interests

Ideally, you would also survey your list(s).  This is done most inexpensively online and can help you get a feel for the demographics of your online supporters and event participants.

From this, you may already see some potential partners emerging.  If your core constituency has an unusually high percentage of people who drive motorcycles, your corporate development folks, armed with these data, can make a more effective pitch to those companies.

This list, and your information about it, is your gold mine for the corporate world.  Assuming that there is not a strictly philanthropic reason for them giving to you, they are generally interested either in what partnering with you will do for their brand among a certain segment or segments of their customers or potential customers or in what your constituents could be persuaded to do with them in a cause-related marketing relationship.

Even in the first instance, your list is your gold mine because companies will assume that if you have, for example, heavy support among 35-55-year-old women, their 35-55-year-old female customer base might think highly about their support of you.

There are a couple of key factors in these relationships, though.  First is never to give up control of your list.  You can allow the partnering company to mail, phone, and even email your list (assuming your privacy policy allows it) with an offer for a cause-related marketing or affinity promotion done jointly with you.  But it needs to be your list, with your control over when and how it is communicated with, with no ability for your partner to simply absorb it into their list of information about their customers or into a prospect list.  In fact, you will want to introduce some dummy constituents into any files you share, even under an NDA and the strictest legal contracts, to make sure a list not used without your knowledge or consent.

The second is to make sure as the nonprofit, you are not responsible for the heavy lifting.  These cause-related marketing programs abound, with people more than happy to give you 10% of their sales, as long as your constituents enter promo code RIVERRUNpastEVEandADAM.  As a nonprofit, you are only ever able to acknowledge the relationship, state the nature of the relationship, and thank the company for their support.  You are not able to, and should not be able to, sell a product effectively.

And any partner that truly values you as a nonprofit will not ask you to do so.  The ideal relationship is one where the company values their relationship with you and promotes it as you thank them and appreciate their support.

Direct marketing can also help you acquire cause-related marketing.  Remember the ability to target specific individuals with your advertising? Look for your corporate sales team’s target list and market your programs and efforts to this audience.  They will think you are massive and omnipresent, when in reality you only could be with their support.

Additionally, your email list can help get you contacts at key companies, by looking at the .com portion of the address.  You don’t necessarily need to have the CEO on the list; the right janitor who believes in your cause may be willing to help you navigate to the right person at their company or help arrange a lunch and learn with the corporate staff.

So your direct marketing list and tactics can help you in the cultivation, success, and execution of corporate programs.  Good luck with this and please share any success stories in the comments!  Thanks!


* French for “That’s some straight up bull”

A direct marketing bridge to… cause-related marketing and sponsorship