By James D’Ambrosio

JamesProfile1TwitterResearching nonprofit news, I recently came across cause marketing guidelines put forth by the Charities Bureau of New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. Titled “Five Best Practices For Transparent Cause Marketing,” the focus is ensuring consumers are well-informed and agencies receive what they’re promised. Agencies involved in cause marketing might want to review these guidelines, given increased scrutiny many agencies now face. Even if you operate outside New York, the information could be helpful in your campaigns.


♦ CLEARLY DESCRIBE THE PROMOTION: Before purchasing a product or service, consumers should know how a charity benefits. Ads, Web sites and product packaging should clearly indicate: a) name of charity receiving a donation and it’s mission (if not obvious by name); b) the benefit charity will receive; c) any flat donation or minimum amount guaranteed to charity, or cap on donation; d) consumer action required for donation to be made and any restrictions on the donation; and e) start and end dates of campaign.

♦ CONSUMERS SHOULD EASILY UNDERSTAND DONATION AMOUNT: Specify a fixed dollar amount — i.e., 50 cents per purchase — in ads, marketing and product packaging or a fixed percentage of purchase price. This is preferable to vague terms such as “profits” or “proceeds.”

♦ DISCLOSE WHAT MAY NOT BE APPARENT: To ensure transparency and maintain reputation: a) If all or part of a donation is in-kind (non-monetary) explain its nature and amount; b) if a flat donation is promised or paid to a charity — regardless of a purchase or use of a product or service — state that action by consumer does not result in a contribution to the charity; and c) if a logo, color or other branding commonly associated with a charitable cause is used, clearly indicate whether a product purchase or use of a service results in a charitable donation.

♦ SOCIAL MEDIA TRANSPARENCY: Clearly and prominently state the terms of a social media campaign as part of online marketing — amount donated to charity per action, name of charity receiving funds, dates of campaign, and if there’s a minimum/maximum amount to be donated. Track donations in real-time during the campaign to show progress. When a campaign concludes, completely discontinue it or clearly state further actions won’t result in a charitable donation.

♦ DISCLOSE AMOUNT RAISED: After each campaign, indicate on Web site the amount of charitable donations generated,  helping companies highlight generosity and showing accountability to the public. To increase transparency, charities and companies should provide information on their Web sites about active and recently closed campaigns.




A) Any other tips/best practices you’d like to share? B) Did you find this information helpful?


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