Have you ever been the victim of a bad cause related marketing promotion? If so, then perhaps you would agree with me that bad cause related marketing is offensive and even damaging to the non-profit industry. For this reason, the industry really needs to start policing itself and developing a set of commonly accepted best practices.
On Saturday, I decided that I needed a new pair of glasses. So, I took a trip to the mall and walked into LensCrafters because it felt convenient. I saw the doctor. She poked around my eyes and dilated them. I picked out my frames and proceeded to check-out. During the process of ringing up the bill, we got to a point that sounded something like this:
- Cashier: “Would you like to add $1.00 to your bill today to support a charity called OneSight?”
- Me: “Ummmmmm, what is that?“
- Cashier: “It is a charity that helps poor people around the world who suffer from bad eyesight.”
- Me: “Can you tell me anything else about the charity?“
- Cashier: “Ummmmmmm, no.”
- Me: “Then no, I wouldn’t like to support that charity.”
My issue with this exchange
I understand that it is only one dollar, but as a donor don’t I deserve a better case for support than: “It is a charity that helps poor people around the world who suffer from bad eyesight.”?
Again, you’re probably thinking to yourself: “Come on, Erik. It is one dollar. You’re not going to get the song and dance that charities give you for larger ask amounts.”
Of course, you are right, but am I asking too much for something like:
- A brochure sitting at the cash register that explains more about the charity.
- In-store posters or displays explaining who this company’s charity of choice is and why it is their charity of choice?
So, I came home and decided to Google around to find a few answers about the charity I was asked to support at the LensCrafters cash register.
Here is what I found on the LensCrafters website:
“Twenty-five years ago, LensCrafters founded the OneSight organization with one purpose in mind: To provide better sight for all—everything from free eyecare to eyewear to important research that will change how people see tomorrow.”
Perhaps, I am being cynical, but isn’t LensCrafters asking its customers to fund its charitable work?
Back in the day, I remember corporate America feeling the need to re-invest part of its annual profits back into the communities from where those profits came or into a charitable mission about which they felt strongly. Again, I might be off-base here, but it feels like today some companies are keeping their profits and asking their customers to fund their charitable work and then turning around and asking for customer loyalty because of all their good works.
I did go to Guidestar and snoop around OneSight’s 990 forms, which as you know can be like deciphering hieroglyphs at times. From what I can tell, this organization raises very little money from more traditional resource development methods and gets most of its money from LensCrafters’ cause related marketing cash register program.
As a consumer, I believe I deserve a little transparency at the cash register if I am just being asked to essentially support a company’s charitable activities.
Is a brochure or display really asking too much?
Cause related marketing is here to stay
Cause related marketing is here to stay because it generates substantial revenue. It is an easy ask. After all, it is just one dollar, right? Come on. Isn’t it a small price for a concerned citizen and donor to pay so that they can feel good about doing something to feed a hungry person or give the gift of sight?
Call me old fashion, but this feels like lazy philanthropy, especially when companies can’t even be bothered to train their cashiers to answer a few questions or produce a brochure for distribution at the cash register.
If only there were best practices and some minimum standards that we could all agree upon.
Ummmm, wait! Perhaps, we have something . . .
My online friend, JoanneFritz, at about.com posted a great article titled “3 Cause-Related Marketing Trends That Matter to Nonprofits and Their Business Partners“. It is definitely worth taking a minute to click-through and read it.
Joanne ends her post with a call to action and includes a few good links for non-profit organizations that are searching for best practices.
Has your agency played around with any cause related marketing efforts? If so, what did you do? More importantly, what did you learn? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC