Cause Marketing Trend Watch








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The happy union of social media and cause marketing is not by any stretch new news.  That said, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on right now leveraging the considerable power of microsharing (I like this much better than “micro-blogging” and have Pistachio Consulting to thank for the coinage).  Witness the whirlwind of fundraising excitement coming out of the South by Southwest conference   (for non-digeratis, it’s a convergence in Austin TX of the music, entertainment and interactive worlds, “SXSW” if you’re a cool kid.)  

smackdown-logoThe program that seems to be generating the most buzz  (at least according to the non-stop chirping coming from my Tweetdeck) is the Social Media Smackdown, a challenge pitting power bloggers and celebrities against eachother in a race to raise funds for their respective charities.  Meanwhile in Cincinnati, our client P&G was involved in a smackdown of their own:  Digital Hack Night, a fundraiser for the Tide Loads of Hope disaster relief program (get the blow-by-blow from participant and master blogger David Armano here

Real money is being raised through these efforts — the Tide hackathon raised $50,000 in just four hours, which was matched by P&G.  Thanks to Twitter and other microsharing hubs, we can now fundraise at a blistering pace.  The donations and pledges that used to take weeks to gather (remember collecting signatures and checks with an old-timey sign-up sheet for walkathons and the like way back in the dark ages of the late 20th century?)  can now be collected in a matter of hours thanks to the exponential power of tweets and retweets.

I’ll keep watching this trend with great interest, and would love to hear about any other smart uses of Twitter in the fundraising space you might know of.

  1. March 20, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    It seems that causenation is well represented at SXSW this year. As you describe, the lines of popluar culture, social media and cause are converging more than ever before.

    We also heard about the “What’s Your Pitch?” contest at the Pepsico Podcast Playground at SXSW (essentially a do-it yourself broadcast zone, with “booths” for people to record and upload their podcasts direct from the conference). Pepsico will award $4,500 to the person who can make a one-minute podcast pitch for a start-up company that is financially successful, but also leaves a positive imprint on society and/or the environment. This is a direct link with Pepsico’s brand and corporate mission – “Performance with Purpose.”

  2. March 20, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    It is interesting to see the proliferation of social-media driven cause efforts. Almost as prolific as my comment, which might have been better off as a stand alone blog post (which will come soon enough):

    Social media makes it easier for people to connect on a human level, despite separation by distance and time. We expect greater levels of intimacy and immediacy in our interactions, which allows for a higher velocity of change.

    Because of this, we don’t see companies and organizations as monolithic enterprises. Instead, we see them for what they are: people working together to provide a good or service. A natural outcome of this realization is that these men and women take concern in the impact they are making on the communities they serve. That includes for-profit and non-profit.

    Everyone has a voice and more are deciding to use that voice to promote the causes they believe in. Just like the proliferation of direct mail and telemarketing, social media will generate a cacophony of cause-related efforts. Key principles will help each effort stand out from the crowd.

    As the campaign manager for the Pledge to End Hunger ( and the co-producer of Social Media Smackdown for Charity, I can offer firsthand insight into both. Both concepts are taking different approaches to utilize social media to raise attention and triggering action for a cause. Let me focus on the Pledge to End Hunger, since Charity Smackdown is still unfolding.

    Pledge to End Hunger (#HungerPledge) used the anticipation and experience of SXSW to raise awareness for the surprisingly real problem of childhood hunger in America. It used a coalition of social media influencers (co-chairs were Chris Brogan and Beth Kanter), individuals willing to champion the effort via blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, and corporations to use traditional media channels & email communications.

    The main focus of the Pledge to End Hunger was to get people to sign a pledge to action to help end childhood hunger. That action could be as easy as sharing the website with others or more invested ways like volunteering time locally or donating resources. By taking that action, Tyson Foods loaded food on to a semi-truck that was destined for delivery in Austin during SXSW.

    Because we filled that truck in 28 hours with 1,000+ people taking the desire action of signing the pledge, we were given the opportunity to fill and deliver three more trucks to food banks in the states having the most people sign The Pledge.

    Our main public measurement of success has been the number of people signing the pledge. With nearly 5,000 people signing in it just two weeks, we are pleased with the initial result. Especially so when you consider how much noise was in the channel around SXSW. (Just Twitter search #sxsw or #sxswi).

    For those who attended SXSW, it was difficult to avoid the #HungerPledge in the twitter stream, the keynote/panel podium mentions (5 total – including Gary Vaynerchuk and Guy Kawasaki/Chris Anderson – with Guy raising $80 for it), and an army of people wearing the “I Pledged!” sticker. The tangible delivery of a semi-truckload of 140,000 servings of protein helped make this virtual effort become very real, especially to the multiple food agencies in central Texas receiving this rare influx of non-carbohydrate food.

    It will become even more tangible when three more trucks are delivered in the coming weeks to the three states having the most people signing the pledge. While we still have about an hour left, it appears Indiana, Missouri, and Texas will benefit directly.

    Most surprising to me during the SXSW push was groundswell of excitement within the hunger relief community. For decades they have toiled working to deal with the crisis of people in need and frustrated by the political reasons why people living in the land of plenty have to go hunger, especially children (12.4 million at any given time in the US). The attention this campaign generated gave them validation for their efforts, emboldened their resolve, and has given them renewed hope to find a solution.

    For companies considering embarking on a cause-related effort, I would encourage them to be real, be passionate, be realistic, be transparent, and be connected. Opportunism does not go unpunished.

    Tyson Foods has been giving food away for years. It has been only recently they decided to use it as a way of drawing more people’s attention to the root causes of hunger in America. Ed Nicholson, their social media director, recognizes people may question his motives, but Tyson realizes they need to help lead a broader conversation. That’s why they decided to tie their in-kind gifts to new people adding their voices.

    While the cost of involvement with The Pledge was low, we understand the importance of creating lasting impact, not just drive-thru charity. That is why we teamed with Share Our Strength not only to be the beneficiary of financial gifts, but to provide resources for how people can get and stay directly involved in their local community.

    Our intention for what’s next is to tell the stories that come from the Pledge to End Hunger campaign, especially about the people who were inspired to get involved who hadn’t been before, as well as those who benefited from their volunteerism, advocacy, and charitable support.

    The long-term metric of our success will the number of people who stay involved with championing the end of childhood hunger in America. It is a solvable problem and with enough people involved, we can solve it.

    Be on the lookout at and my company’s blog http://blog.

  3. ssmirnov
    March 22, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Mark, I hadn’t heard about the Pepsico program, thx for bringing it to my attention. And Scott, your comment is pure gold, I hope you don’t mind if I share it beyond the confines of this blog. Ironically, it was the Hunger Pledge that led me to the Social Media Smackdown in the first place (thx to the prolific and enthusiastic Walmart Moms!) Your insider account of the program is really terrific and helpful, thank you for sharing it here.

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