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.
The new buzzwords in philanthropy are: austerity, lean, collaboration, best practices, mergers, partnerships. And, the most used word? Creativity.
A panel of business and nonprofit leaders gave out these buzzwords at a Nonprofit Business Summit hosted by the Phoenix Business Journal earlier today. They repeated creativity often that it meant how you can adapt, be flexible and cut costs.
Businesses warned about the death of checkbook philanthropy as they face increasing pressure from employee groups to provide meaningful community engagement opportunities. The reality is, businesses need nonprofits more than ever. For example, St. Vincent de Paul now provides a Saturday family volunteer opportunity for US Airways employees so that they can bring in their family to volunteer at the nonprofits facilities. This Saturday morning volunteer encounter is now a national model of meaningful nonprofit-business partnerships.
More employees want to get a clear understanding about the mission of nonprofit organizations before directing their funds. This is forcing community relations managers to get a better grasp of the nonprofit world.
In terms of creativity, a recent project involved Cox Communications partnering with Barrett Jackson to auction a car. The proceeds then went to Make a Wish Foundation. This is creative philanthropy in action as multiple entities join together to help a worthy cause. With their charitable budget staying flat for the last decade, the company has used creative ways to generate larger funding for Cox Charities.