January 9, 2024

Persona-Based Cause Marketing

Boost your bottom line and social impact by aligning cause marketing with your customer personas, driving higher donations, increased sales, and greater loyalty.

A big part of hitting your goals this year will come down to how well you match your customer personas to your cause marketing.

Don’t believe me? Let’s review some quick facts.

Cause marketing increases:

  • lifetime value, 18%1
  • average order value, 23%2
  • conversion rates, 19%3
  • new customer switching, 50%4
  • pricing flexibility, 67%5

But everyone’s doin’ it, right?

“It’s table stakes now and doesn’t provide an incremental benefit.”

Well, yes and no.

Cause marketing is being used ubiquitously because it works. That doesn’t mean it’s always being done right.

Marketing 101

You can juice up your cause marketing impact for Your company by following a simple, proven tactic.

Ask yourself, what is a tried-and-true formula in marketing that increases conversion, cart size, and customer loyalty?

The answer: marketing to customer personas.

I’d put marketing to personas in the category of gravity – it always works.

Applying customer personas to your cause marketing will work too. The more you focus on your personas and craft your cause marketing messaging and tactics, the better your rewards will be.

It's not about you

Oh, the temptation!

The temptation to pick our favorite cause and make sure it’s being promoted by our company and our services...

Or, to take it easy: stick with the one, big cause we already are supporting.


Assuming that you are choosing from a pool of legitimate causes and nonprofits, what’s more important?

Choosing one general cause that’s convenient?

Or choosing a cause that each one of your customer personas can identify with, and want to support?

Or, put another way: would you rather raise $10,000 for a generic, one-size-fits-all cause?

Or $35,000 for five causes that each of your customer personas identify with and foster greater sales impact?

With persona-based cause marketing, you’ll accomplish so much more:

  • Higher donations for worthy causes
  • Increased sales
  • Higher conversion
  • Greater customer loyalty
  • Improved customer engagement

Basic principles of persona-based cause marketing

We all know our personas.

If you don’t have your personas down tight, here’s a blog and tool from HubSpot you can use to build them out.

My bet though, there, is that you already have detailed personas for your customers.

For this exercise, your next step is to rank your personas by overall sales.

Try this: rank your personas by which one buys the most products in $ value and contributes the most in gross margin to your overall business.

Now, cull the group down to the top five personas based on those revenue and gross margin metrics.

Pick the #1 persona and let’s get started!

For now, let’s just discuss your first persona-based nonprofit selection, but keep in mind you will want to do this for every significant persona.

As a rule of thumb, if a persona drives more than 10% of overall sales, it's worth aligning with a nonprofit in cause marketing.

We’ll show you how to manage all the compliance challenges later (there’s a simple solution). For now, let’s just focus on increasing revenue performance.

Our next challenge is to research and find a charity or nonprofit that matches your persona.

The tighter your target nonprofit matches the goals and desires of your persona, the greater your sales and marketing impact will be.

Here's a good example

PADI is the professional association of diving instructors. Visitors on their sites are either recreational divers or professional diving instructors.

They support an initiative called Dives Against Debris.

Dives Against Debris events are when a group of divers in an area get together and dive a specific dive region or comb its beaches for debris that is not natural (refuse). Divers then remove the debris from the area.

Seiko, the world’s largest seller of luxury dive watches, partnered with PADI to sponsor and support Dives Against Debris.

Seiko knew their persona, knew the relative socioeconomic characteristics of their customers, knew their affinity for diving and the ocean, and found a great partner to increase persona-connection to their products.

But catch this! If you aren’t a diver, you might be surprised to know that almost no one actually wears a dive watch to dive anymore. Divers wear wrist-based computers. Seiko doesn't even make wearable dive computers.

But a dive watch… that’s a fashion statement and a lifestyle vibe, and Seiko continues to sell boatloads of "dive watches" at handsome prices as a major product in their lineup.

So Seiko, partnering with PADI, supports a cause that dive watch buyers support, even though they don’t use dive watches for diving. That’s a smart persona-based nonprofit alliance!

But does Seiko stop there? No, Seiko knows that they have multiple personas who use their watches.

So Seiko supports polar expeditions (outdoor watches), track and field community outreach to young athletes (runner/triathlete watches), road races (runner/triathlete watches), youth sport competitions (kids' sports watches), swimming days (stopwatches), and even distribute clocks to lesser-developed countries for education.

There is a multiplicity of personas, so Seiko aligns with a multiplicity of causes.

Persona-based marketing = persona-aligned cause marketing!

When you incorporate that same strategy in your business – especially as part of the customer journey for online sales – the impact of cause marketing will dramatically increase.

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Talk to one of our experts today to find out how Change can help you.

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Using AI to help

So you might be wondering: how can I discover what causes my different personas care about?

I’m going to show you a way to find multiple persona-based nonprofits on your own using ChatGPT.

First, go to ChatGPT and start the conversation. (If you have GPT-4, try out the Change plugin for even better results!)

You: “Howdy, ChatGPT. Can you help me identify some important characteristics in a persona I want to give you?”

ChatGPT: “Of course! Please describe the persona you have in mind, and I'll help identify the key characteristics.”

You: “I want to know what the social causes that this cohort would care about if they were shopping to buy a [insert your product] online.”

Drop in, with a separate line for each, the characteristics of your cohort. For the purposes of this example, I am selling women’s trail running shoes.

Here are my cohort facts:

  • Demographics: Female, aged 25-45, living predominantly in metropolitan areas or suburbs.
  • Socioeconomic Status: Relatively affluent, suggesting discretionary spending power for quality goods.
  • Education and Family: Typically college-educated and often in a committed relationship, possibly with young children.
  • Lifestyle: Interested in outdoor activities, particularly trail running, which indicates a focus on health and fitness.
  • Technology Usage: Skewed towards using Apple iPhone wearables, hinting at a preference for integrated tech and fitness solutions.
  • Consumer Behavior: Likely values quality, durability, and the performance of the products they purchase, especially in relation to outdoor and fitness activities.

Now, ask ChatGPT to identify the types of causes this cohort would be interested in.

You: “What causes is this type of persona most interested in supporting?"

ChatGPT: “Given the persona's characteristics, they may be inclined towards the following causes:

  1. Environmental Conservation: As trail runners, they likely have a strong appreciation for the outdoors and could support efforts to preserve natural landscapes.
  1. Child and Family Services: With the possibility of having young children and valuing education, they may be drawn to causes that support family welfare and educational programs for children.
  1. Health and Wellness: Their interest in fitness suggests they might support nonprofits focused on promoting health, fitness, and well-being in their communities.
  1. Community Development: Living in metropolitan areas, they may be interested in local community enhancement projects or urban greening initiatives.
  1. Technology in Education: Given their affinity for Apple wearables, they may be enthusiastic about educational initiatives that incorporate technology and innovation.

These causes would resonate with their lifestyle, socioeconomic status, and the values inferred from their demographic profile.

Now, I ask ChatGPT to help me find a nonprofit that matches with this cohort and aligns with a selected interest group.

You: “Ok, help me find 5 nonprofits focused on promoting health, fitness, and well-being in the communities of that cohort.”

ChatGPT: “Here is a list of 10 nonprofits that align with the characteristics of the persona you provided, focused on promoting health, fitness, and well-being in communities:

  1. Good Sports: Provides free sporting gear to support young people who need them the most, encouraging healthy, active lifestyles in disadvantaged youths.
  2. Women’s Sports Foundation: Dedicated to helping women and girls enjoy lifelong health benefits through sports.
  3. Girls on the Run International: Empowers young girls in the US and Canada by facilitating lessons that combine fitness programs with life skill development.
  4. Achilles International: Encourages people with disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics, providing support, training, and technical expertise.
  5. Bent on Learning: Integrates yoga and mindfulness into schools and communities.

These organizations cover a range of activities from providing equipment and access to sports for disadvantaged youths, to inclusive programs for those with disabilities, and broad initiatives to encourage fitness and wellness in communities.”

This is simply an example of what this persona research could look like – and it just takes a few minutes!

P.S. Footnoted data can be found in detail, with linked sources, in this article.

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