Monday, December 5, 2011

100,000 milestone offers template for associations & nonprofits: the power of cause marketing for associations

Sometime this week, the 100,000th military family will receive a free farm-grown Christmas tree from the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx.

This remarkable Trees for Troops program offers a template for how trade associations and professional societies can join with charities and for-profit companies to benefit society and advance the image of its industry/profession.

Disclosure: Back in 2005, I helped organize the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and the initial Trees for Troops program. I’ve been on tree farms and watched the pride and joy of farmers donating their trees. I’ve been on military bases and watched the excitement and gratitude of military families receiving this gift. And, I’ve been interviewed by national television shows intrigued by the entire effort.

Here are three news videos that show what this program is about:

Trees for Troops, as does all cause marketing, involves a partnership between the nonprofits and for profits. In this case, three national organizations have come together to work with the military to provide trees to military families.
  • The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) is the trade association representing growers and retailers of farm-grown Christmas Trees. Members of NCTA and its affiliated state associations donate the Christmas trees.
  • The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to advance the spirit of Christmas for kids, families and the environment. The Foundation provides the organization and coordination for the Trees for Troops program.
  • FedEx is the for-profit partner and, in this case, donates more than 60,000 truck miles each year to get the trees from the farms to the military families. Plus thousands of air miles to fly the trees to deployed troops around the world.
So, this is a nice program but what does it have to do with me and my organization?

Well, it represents a great opportunity for you and your members to “get caught” doing good work for others.

I’ve had many association colleagues say well it is easy to engage in cause marketing when you have Christmas trees. Or, I’m a local organization, we can’t possibly implement a cause marketing program.

Bull roar!

If you have members, you can do cause marketing!

It can be a campaign like Trees for Troops. Or, you can involve your members in a nationwide shoe donation effort through Soles for Souls. Or, you could get members involved in a reading program through something like First Books. If your members are in professional services, they might donate their service for a single day or week. If your members have retail shops, they could provide pinups and other efforts to collect donations at the cash register.

Don’t get hung up with trying to work with huge national causes such as Susan Komen for the Cure or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. There are hundreds of thousands of local, regional and national charities that would jump at the chance to work with you and your members to support their causes.

Why should your organization get engaged in cause marketing?

First, because it is the right thing to do.

Second, because causes are important to millennials and cause marketing can help you reach this generation as members and/or donors.

Here are some of the benefits I’ve seen:

  1. You get your members engaged in their local community. 
  2. Doing a cause locally on a nationwide basis gets lots of media (traditional and social) coverage and positive image for your industry or profession.
  3. The cause program coalesces your members and nonmembers around a single cause and generates enthusiasm about their association or nonprofit organization.
Interested in learning more about cause marketing? Here are three great sources:

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