How is Social Media Changing the Cause Landscape?

Sep 26, 2011 12:15 PM ET

What Do You Stand For?

It used to be that it took two to tango in a cause branding partnership – the company and the nonprofit. But today, thanks to social media, consumers are looking to cut in. As crowdsourcing allows consumers to suggest, vote for, support or criticize the union of a company and nonprofit, social media has propelled consumer engagement in cause initiatives forward – and helped to raise money and awareness for the issues along the way. But in some cases, this new player has also weakened the bond between company and nonprofit, changing the relationship from partner to beneficiary.

Yesterday, Cone’s vice president of cause branding and nonprofit marketing, Craig Bida, spoke at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Boston on how nonprofits can once again become indispensible to a cause campaign. Craig emphasized that power partnerships are not entirely a thing of the past – Levi’s and Goodwill and Macy’s and are two recent examples of partnerships in which the nonprofits solve distinct needs for the companies. They bring something to the table in a way that no other organization can, so it’s no surprise that they also earn top billing as an equal in the effort.

Nonprofits are a powerful, even critical, aspect of a cause campaign and offer distinctive assets that can enhance a partnership:

1. Access: Nonprofits have access to the story and the constituents that care.
2. Credibility: Nonprofits not only define the issue with on-the-ground examples, but show the impact so consumers know companies are making a difference.
3. Expertise: Nonprofits have in-depth issue expertise that can help companies solve problems in new and innovative ways.
4. Brand Halo: Nonprofits represent the passion behind the cause and can bring a program to life.

Social media may be changing the cause landscape, but nonprofits are still an essential element to any cause program. The next time your nonprofit aims to partner for a cause campaign, remember to promote your assets and ensure corporate suitors save the last dance for you.

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