How Companies Can Build Value Through “Cause Marketing”

By Dora Lutz, Founder & President, 3 Hawks Consulting

Cause Marketing

My early marketing career began by working specifically with nonprofits to help them with their ‘cause marketing’.  At the time, that extended primarily into helping the organizations reach their goals, which were typically focused on reaching the communities they supported and the occasional individual donors.  Corporate sponsors were typically reserved for event marketing, and were targeted primarily through networking and board engagement.

Since then, I’ve watched the concept of ‘cause marketing’ evolve from marketing brands, to marketing corporations through causes.

Now, to be clear: I believe that businesses and communities get the most value through mutually beneficial partnerships.

But there’s danger if the primary responsibility for these initiatives are delegated only to marketing:

– Well-intentioned marketers may not have full visibility into the organizational realities

– Aligning only with marketing goals may miss some of the opportunity to drive larger value to the corporate partner

– Cause marketing, done improperly, can backfire and cause more harm than good to the corporate brand


This is why I typically encourage businesses that are interested in building value through ‘cause sponsorships’ to take a step back and ask some thoughtful questions in the c-suite prior to engaging a nonprofit partner.

Great questions to ask include:

– What social issues does our organization currently solve, or what could it solve if we had the right players at the table?

– Many companies can tie these social issues back to these top 17 Sustainable Development goals.

– What does our organizational culture represent, and in what ways do we live that out? Which of those tools could be of benefit to others in the community?

– Fineline Printing Group is a good example of how their roots affect their culture, commitment and community

– What do we want to get out of it organizationally beyond brand recognition? How could we meaningfully engage our employees?  How could we continue to support our business operations?

– Check out how GM approached and marketed this.


I realize that the idea of asking WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) may be a bit controversial.  But when we temper that by also being willing to ask, WIIFY (what’s in it for you?) and look for responses that go deeper than the exchange of corporate dollars for brand goodwill, we are positioned to drive much bigger impact to the communities we all serve.

About the Expert

Dora Lutz, President and CEO, 3 Hawks Consulting

DoraLDora Lutz is a creative, collaborative, digital marketing generalist who has spent her career in the trenches gaining experience in logistics and operations, management, marketing, and business development.  Dora is passionate about the ways digital media are transforming the ways people communicate, and loves building plans that yield tangible, meaningful results.

Dora earned her MBA in Organizational Leadership from Butler University, and has over 15 years of management and communications experience from a variety of industries.


  1. Beth Valdettaro on June 2, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Thanks Dora! Great information here!

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