March 26, 2024

Ecommerce Master Class Step 2: Choosing the Right Charity

Here's step two of our ten-step Ecommerce Cause Marketing Master Class: how to choose the right charity.

As we discussed in An Introduction to the Cause Marketing Master Class, following key steps and processes in your cause marketing will increase the sales impact of partnering with a nonprofit and will increase the number of donations a nonprofit receives. We recommend you do each step sequentially. You should especially make sure that you have identified your target customer persona using the process in step 1.

  1. Picking your donation persona
  2. Choosing the right charity
  3. Establishing a co-marketing relationship with a nonprofit
  4. Choosing and testing the best donation option
  5. Compliance
  6. Conversion best practices
  7. Improving LTV and Average Order Size
  8. Marketing the relationship overall
  9. Multiple personas
  10. Effectiveness audit

In step 2 of this Master Class, we will guide you through:

  • Identifying your persona's priorities
  • Crafting your persona cause statement
  • Evaluating nonprofit brand vs. nonprofit exclusivity
  • Comparing co-marketing with open donations
  • Assessing your competitors' nonprofit partnerships
  • Weighing national vs. regional nonprofits
  • Developing your Ideal Nonprofit Profile (INP)
  • Prioritizing three charities in your charity search

Identifying your Persona's Priorities

Having run the persona exercise using ChatGPT in Step 1, you should have a clear understanding of what your target persona cares about.

Review their interests and their priorities. Discuss their interests with other members of your team. Do the interests and priorities ring true? Remember, you are doing this to optimize for your persona, not for you. Try to keep your personal biases out of this decision.

Using the women scuba diver as our persona example in Step 1, we can write out prioritized bullet points of the causes we are confident she cares about:

  1. Ocean
  2. Environment
  3. Travel
  4. Women’s access to sports
  5. Physical fitness

Crafting your Persona Cause Statement

Now, write out a specific Persona Cause Statement. The Persona Cause Statement is a recipe for selecting the right nonprofit to work with. It has three elements:

  • A brief summary of who I am
  • A brief summary of what I care about
  • A brief summary of the ideal nonprofit

It can help to go back to your ChatGPT inputs in Step 1 for a refresher on your persona’s characteristics.

Using the same scuba example, this would yield the following Persona Cause Statement:

Who I am: I am a woman, between the ages of 25-45, who lives in a metropolitan area. I am relatively affluent, college educated, physically active, and enjoy scuba as one of several sports. I use technology easily and quality is important to me.

What I care about: Because of my persona’s attributes, I care about scuba diving, a clean ocean and environment overall, women having access to a variety of sporting options, ocean wildlife being preserved, and education about the ocean and its living creatures.

My ideal charity: I would really connect and warm to a charity that fosters a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba and sport and incorporates technology or an app in communicating with me.

Sometimes, we can go off the rails a little. After writing the Persona Cause Statement, does it ring true to an association with your product’s top persona? If you follow the process, it will. If it doesn’t, stop. Go back and repeat the process to make sure you are aligned with company personas and the Persona Cause Statement.

Evaluating Nonprofit Brand vs. Nonprofit Exclusivity

We know that increasing donations to a nonprofit is closely tied to improving your own conversion and sales. However, before selecting a nonprofit, it's crucial to evaluate your company's brand recognition honestly. 

The choice between aligning with a national brand or seeking exclusivity is pivotal and requires a clear understanding of your company's partnership strategy. Evaluate whether the selected nonprofit will enhance your brand's visibility and appeal to your target audience. 

A simple guideline to follow is to assess whether featuring the nonprofit's logo on your homepage's banner would strengthen your company's branding significantly. 

If your brand is well-known locally or within a specific niche, supporting a local cause might be your main focus. On the other hand, if your brand lacks nationwide recognition, partnering with a nationally recognized nonprofit could be more effective in boosting conversions and sales.

When partnering with a nationally recognized nonprofit, you can anticipate better sales and marketing outcomes, as many other businesses do. However, due to the nonprofit's brand value, exclusivity in your specific product category or target market may not be attainable. This doesn't diminish the value of choosing a national charity; it simply means you shouldn't expect to be the sole partner.

On the other hand, if your brand holds a strong position in the market and resonates deeply with your target audience, opting for a Tier 2 nonprofit could be a strategic move. By doing so, you can negotiate exclusivity within your niche market with the nonprofit. This could involve committing to a minimum donation amount or agreeing to allocate marketing resources towards driving additional donations with your customer base. Such decisions require strategic input from key stakeholders like the CEO, CMO, and VP of Sales.

Ultimately, the decision to partner with a nonprofit should align closely with your business objectives and brand identity. It's crucial to weigh the potential benefits of aligning with a well-known national nonprofit against the advantages of securing exclusivity with a Tier 2 organization, considering factors such as branding impact and strategic alignment with your target audience.

Comparing Co-Marketing with Open Donations

One pivotal decision you'll encounter is whether to establish a formal co-marketing arrangement with the nonprofit(s) of your choice.

Formal agreements offer several advantages: increased marketing access, including the utilization of the charity’s branding elements such as logos. Aligning with a nationally recognized charity can significantly enhance your company’s reputation, visibility, and ultimately, sales. Formalizing the relationship allows for incorporating the nonprofit's logo in marketing materials and at checkout.

We provide a preliminary co-marketing agreement template to streamline negotiations and establish clear terms for the partnership. Access the free draft co-marketing agreement here to initiate structured rights and conditions for your co-marketing campaigns with the chosen nonprofit.

Alternatively, you can opt for open donation options at checkout without entering into a formal agreement.

Change maintains a strong affiliation with a reputable donor advised fund (DAF), broadening the range of nonprofits available for support—over 1.5 million—without the need for individual formal agreements. Leveraging Change simplifies the process of adding additional charities while outsourcing financial and regulatory compliance tasks.

Assessing your Competitors' Nonprofit Partnerships

Begin by visiting the homepage sites of your top five competitors to assess their involvement in cause marketing. Check various sections such as the footer, often found under headings like “about us,” “partners,” “sustainability,” or “causes,” for any mentions of charity work or partnerships.

Create a chart listing the charities your competitors are supporting.

It's usually best not to support the same nonprofits your competitors do. However, if a competitor is working with a well-known charity like Feeding America, you might consider doing the same.

For instance, if your bigger competitor is partnering with Feeding America, you could choose a similar but less famous charity, like Midwest Food Bank. Both charities are equally worthy of support. Although the lesser-known one might not boost your brand as much, partnering with them allows for flexibility and unique positioning.Try to find a national charity that fits your audience and isn't linked to your competitors. But if that's tough, think about how the charity's reputation might affect your brand, regardless of your competitors.

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Weighing National vs. Regional Nonprofits

This aspect is straightforward.

If the majority (more than 80%) of your sales occur in a specific, well-defined region such as the Midwest, California, or The South, then selecting a regional nonprofit with a strong regional connection is highly recommended.

Consumers, including your target audience, feel a stronger connection to organizations that are geographically close to them. Supporting a national symbol like the American flag is good, but aligning with a state flag is even better. Choosing a city-specific charity is an even stronger option, and supporting a neighborhood or street-level cause is the most impactful.

For instance, if your business, such as a grocery delivery service, operates primarily in Houston, Texas, engaging in cause marketing with local organizations like the Houston Food Bank would be more effective than opting for a national charity like Feeding America.

However, if your target audience doesn't have a strong local or regional connection, it's advisable to choose a national charity initially. This allows you to capitalize on their broader recognition, potentially increasing conversions, sales, and donations.

Developing your Ideal Nonprofit Profile (INP)

By completing the process above, you can create your Ideal Nonprofit Profile (INP). The best way to hone your INP is to craft a statement that summarizes their characteristics, desires, and more.

We’ll use the woman scuba diver as an example. To create the INP, we started with the Persona Cause Statement and continued to build upon it by using the exercises from above:

A charity that fosters a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba diving and sport and incorporates technology or an app in communicating with me.

Because we do not have a nationally recognized brand, we want a national brand:

A charity that fosters a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba diving and sport and incorporates technology or an app in communicating with me, that is a national brand:

And because we prefer to leverage the relationship in our marketing materials, a nonprofit that is open to a co-marketing agreement:

A charity that fosters a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba diving and sport and incorporates technology or an app in communicating with me, that is a national brand, open to a co-marketing agreement, 

And because we prefer that the nonprofit is not being leveraged by a competitor, a nonprofit that is not on our competitor list:

A charity that fosters a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba diving and sport and incorporates technology or an app in communicating with me, that is a national brand, open to a co-marketing agreement, not being used by a competitor, 

And because we are not regional, we do not want a specific regional focus:

A charity that fosters a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba diving and sport and incorporates technology or an app in communicating with me, that is a national brand, open to a co-marketing agreement, not being used by a competitor, with a national focus and reputation.

Prioritizing Three Charities in Your Charity Search

Now, we are going back to ChatGPT. We are going to take the definition above and look for three different charities to contact.

Take the Ideal Nonprofit Profile statement we crafted above and Take the definition sentence above:

A charity that fosters a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba diving and sport and incorporates technology or an app in communicating with me, that is a national brand, open to a co-marketing agreement, not being used by a competitor, with a national focus and reputation.

And omit the highlighted words shown here:

A charity that fosters a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba diving and sport and incorporates technology or an app in communicating with me, that is a national brand, open to a co-marketing agreement, not being used by a competitor, with a national focus and reputation.

Your prompt for ChatGPT (with the bolded words added):

I want to find a nonprofit that is a charity that fosters a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba diving and sport and incorporates technology or an app in communicating with me, that is a national brand. Please find at least three.

ChatGPT Response:

For a charity that focuses on fostering a clean ocean environment, educates people, particularly girls, on the value of scuba diving and sport, and incorporates technology or an app for communication, here are three options that might interest you:

  1. PADI AWARE Foundation
  2. Women Divers Hall of Fame
  3. The Ocean Conservancy

You should now have three qualified charities that match exactly what your persona will connect and engage with. This is a surefire method to increase conversion and sales.

In the next installment of this Master Class, we will walk you through the process of reaching out to your three charities and engaging in a co-marketing agreement and beginning the process of cause marketing.

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