Today’s guest post comes from Joe Waters, author of Cause Marketing for Dummies and the presenter of next week’s Nonprofit Marketing Guide webinar, Setting Up Marketing and Fundraising Partnerships with Local Businesses, on August 18, 2011. If cause marketing is new to you, join us for the webinar to get up to speed in one hour  on how to make it work for your nonprofit.

Guest Post by Joe Waters

Joe WatersThere’s a famous scene in A Christmas Carol after Scrooge has been visited by the three ghosts. He awakes in his bed and realizes he survived the night. Relieved, Scrooge pledges to “Live in the past, the present and the future.”

It’s a lesson we could all learn from. Yes, each and every one.

While it seems like many nonprofits are stuck in the past, they’re there with good reason. The past has former glories, holds what has worked and offers predictable models for success. It’s not that what we learned in the past is no longer useful to us. It is. But we can’t succeed with just history books. We need a more thorough education.

My work in cause marketing highlights the importance of fusing together past, present and future.

For those of you who don’t know what cause marketing is, you should check out my blog,, and this post in particular, which defines cause marketing: A partnership between a nonprofit and for-profit for mutual profit.

Despite a wonderful veneer of innovation on most cause marketing promotions, the field is still very much dominated by traditional tactics. These include point-of-sale and purchase or action triggered donations. If you’ve ever been asked at the register to donate a dollar to a cause or purchased a cause product (e. g. a pink toaster), you know what I’m talking about. These tactics have been around for over 30 years.

These tactics have served nonprofits very well. Larger nonprofits such as Komen for the Cure, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Product Red have raised tens of millions for good causes with these old-timer programs.

But the marketplace is changing. These programs are looking outdated and worn, and the present offers new ideas and opportunities. For example, cause marketing involving e-tailers is almost non-existent compared to the work of their offline counterparts. And causes and companies have yet to press the boundaries of cause marketing with Facebook and Twitter. Consumers and donors want and expect more. They expect us to be present.

But we can’t just meet their expectations. We have to predict them. In cause marketing this means embracing smartphones and mobile technology, which promises to reinvent the practice by connecting company and cause by conviction, not commerce. Mobile takes cause marketing out of the big box stores and mass media and brings it to where the donor is located, engaged and moved.

The challenge for causes is to walk in step with consumers, or to even meet them when they arrive at this new promising future. Or will nonprofits lag, as they’ve done before.

Past, present, future. Like Scrooge, nonprofits need to change their ways, or else.

Joe Waters blogs on cause marketing at He shares best practices of the past, present and future of cause marketing in his new book Cause Marketing for Dummies, which is available at a discount when you register for the August 18 webinar, Setting Up Marketing and Fundraising Partnerships with Local Businesses.

Published On: August 9, 2011|Categories: Fundraising|