Join us for the August 18, 2011 webinar where Joe Waters will talk about Setting Up Marketing and Fundraising Partnerships with Local Businesses.

In my experience, most nonprofits take a pretty shallow view of their relationships with local businesses. It usually starts and stops with event sponsorships: cash donations to be listed as an event sponsor and/or donations to an auction.

But what about a true partnership where both parties really contribute to and get something out of it? That's what we call cause marketing, and it's quickly grown into a specialized field of its own within nonprofit marketing and fundraising. Cause marketing tactics include point-of-sale donations, percentage of sale donations, purchase triggered donations, employee engagement, and social media programs (e.g. donations based on Facebook "likes").

Joe Waters, author of the SelfishGiving blog and the just released "Cause Marketing for Dummies" book, is going to be spending some time with us at Nonprofit Marketing Guide over the next month or so, helping you better understand your opportunities to work with local businesses. He's presenting a webinar for us on August 18, and in September, will teach an e-clinic for 24 nonprofits where he will coach you through setting up a real partnership in your community.

Until then, here are five tips from Chapter Two of Joe's book -- which you can get at a discount when you register for the webinar:

Bring an Entrepreneurial Spirit to the Team

For cause marketing to really work, you need an environment in which people can experiment, try new things, get mixed results, and even fail. While Joe is all for accountability, he says that progress rather than success should be the measuring stick at first.

Analyze Your Existing Assets

Start by looking at companies that you already have some kind of relationship with. Where do your board members work? Or your staff's spouses or parents? Who are your vendors? Who has previously sponsored an event? What connections do your biggest supporters have with local businesses? These personal connections, rather than what the businesses actually do, are often much more important to cause marketing success.

Pinkwashing Shouldn't Color Your Thinking

Just because Komen for the Cure has slathered pink everywhere doesn't mean that you can't get into cause marketing too. And you don't need your own special color or ribbon to make it work either. As Joe says, "Don't apologize for not being a cancer charity, celebrate it!"

Keep Things Simple

The best cause marketing partnerships are ultimately very simple ones. Think like a consumer and ask yourself what about your cause would motivate you to support it. Focus on the one thing that will blow people away, what Joe calls your "Famous Last Words."

Messaging Does Not Always Equal Mission

When you keep things simple, that usually means you are leaving a lot of your mission out. That's OK. Joe worked for a hospital that served a very diverse population. But they focused their cause marketing around "emotional hot buttons" of sick children, poor women, and anyone with cancer. By narrowing the messaging, they actually connect more easily and powerfully with consumers.

Want More?

Join us on August 18 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern (10:00 a.m. Pacific) for Setting Up Marketing and Fundraising Partnerships with Local Businesses.

When you register for the webinar, you can also get a copy of Joe's book, Cause Marketing for Dummies, at a discount.

This article first appeared in Kivi's weekly Nonprofit Marketing Tips enewsletter. Subscribe here.