Six months ago, I had communication with a national corporation about their consideration to developing a corporate strategic philanthropy program. They didn’t have one at all. I kept thinking, imagine the impact this corporation could have in communities where they have a presence! WOW! It would be phenomenal for them and communities. Let me say this corporation is big. Okay, they are huge.
Well, they were kind enough to let me know that they had just hired a public relations firm to create one for them. I thought to myself, “What a pr firm? No please no.” But what to do next, just wait and see what they come up with. Just one month ago, I visited the corporations website. There it was, just as I thought was going to happen. They have a program, but it is a cause-related marketing program. I was crushed and let me tell you why.
Cause-related marketing programs are based on two things. One is a one-on-one partnership between a company and a charity. The other is it’s product driven/sales promoted. The program works as long as there is no negative publicity about either the company or the charity and it works so as long as the product moves. In a nutshell, cause related marketing has a shelf-life. While folks contend that any giving is a good thing, these type of programs are not sustainable. The message is not necessarily one that stands over time nor does the giving.
On the other hand, strategic philanthropy programs are created by individuals or companies whose roots are based in philanthropy. Philanthropy is a field with its own set of principles, methods, professionals and message. Strategic philanthropy is not based on product or services and is not promoted by sales. At its core, it is based on the fundamental principle of being responsibly committed to changing lives and the world today and for future generations.
If your company is serious about making an impact and giving back, you’ve got to be serious about the type of giving program you have and how it works. It should be value-based and sustainable. Consumers are savvy folks, just like you and me. Don’t think they are fooled by giving that is essentially marketing-driven. If you want marketing, hire a marketing strategist. If you want philanthropy, hire a philanthropy strategist.