How transparent is cause related marketing? Do you really know if the $5 that you spend on a Starbucks bracelet will actually help create jobs in America? Or, is the role of Starbucks to create jobs or sell good coffee?
Mara Einstein , an associate professor at Queens College enters this debate with an article titled “Charities shouldn’t let corporate marketers set the agenda,” in the May 3 edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Einstein argues that when businesses sell products by touting social causes, they begin to pollute the sacred territory of charities. This creates a power imbalance causing product manufacturers to focus on the bottom line rather than on the charitable intent.
In a sagging economy where neither governments nor nonprofits alone can create jobs, why can’t for-profit businesses sell more products and do good for society? The more we spend, the economy performs better. Einstein counters this argument stating that when businesses start helping charitable causes, government will cut spending on critical areas.
Einstein suggests that businesses could be more transparent and let donors know how the money is used. What if Starbucks could explain where the $5 donations went? Will all funds go towards creating jobs? A transparent, online site that tracks cause-marketing initiatives and societal benefits will be useful.
Businesses are beating prior forecasts and over half in the Standard & Poor 500 have registered at least a 6.7% growth, says a recent article in USA Today. How does this impact nonprofits?
This fast pace of growth is creating greater nonprofit-business partnerships. In at least two nonprofit business forums I attended recently, community relations managers have courted nonprofits to offer greater engagement opportunities for their employees.
The days of checkbook philanthropy are over. Employees want to get plugged in with charities that matter, that really do good. Human resources divisions in companies are also seeking greater community engagement programs for employees.
According to Renee Levin, Community Engagement Manager at Intel Corporation, “a logo on the wall is not what’s needed. We like to have our employees present.” Levin urged nonprofits to help her figure out how she could effectively log the hours of Intel employees volunteering at different charities. This shows a tactical shift in corporations wanting to see greater community engagement among their employees. Intel gives $10 per hour to the charity where the employee volunteers but not many employees are logging their hours.
At Arizona Public Services (APS), employee volunteerism takes center stage in their relationship with non-profits. With 30% of their staff eligible for retirement, community relations is working with HR to align their priorities so that they can give new opportunities for non-profits for board placement. According to Julie Coleman, Corporate Giving & APS Foundation Leader, non-profits should look at “many touch points,” when they discuss funding opportunities with businesses.
At Petsmart Charities, Joy Chesbrough, Director of Philanthropy wants to work with nonprofits that “understand the business goals of an organization.” Their focus is now on sustainability, diversity and inclusion and pet-parent bonding.