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The recent American Marketing Association (AMA) Cause Conference in San Diego, the West Coast’s largest cause / business partnership event, promised to “offer nonprofits and businesses innovative ways to be a force for good in the current economic climate”. This was a fit with Glue’s dual mission – to help businesses succeed through giving and to increase funding to global humanitarian projects. And I strongly believe businesses can and should do well by doing good and that businesses represent massive untapped potential to address the world’s social issues. So I was looking forward to the event’s agenda and speakers.

For nonprofits and the service providers that enable them, this event provided tools, fundraising strategies and examples of strong partnerships that further nonprofits’ missions – including specific, tactical, actionable recommendations. Several of the sessions also targeted business interests such as cause marketing and corporate social responsibility. Though some of the speakers brought broad perspectives from the other corners of the U.S., the event was fairly San Diego / Southern California centric. In general, it was very well done so I’m writing this post to share some takeaways from the sessions I attended and some additional comments on those topics.

The main messages from several of the sessions, followed by my comments, are as follows:

1) Storytelling. Learn to tell a good story. Anyone can do it. So, if this isn’t in your bag of tricks, get this skill now. Learn to answer “what does your organization do” with a story. Andy Goodman, author of Storytelling As A Best Practice and trainer for Al Gore, suggests that every organization have the following types of stories ready and tell them on their websites:

  • • “Nature of our challenge” story
  • • “How we started” story
  • • “Emblematic success” story (how we uniquely make a difference, couldn’t be told by anyone else)
  • • “Performance” stories
  • • “Striving to improve” story (how you made mistakes, learned, and improved)
  • • “Where we’re going” story (what it looks like if you do your job well – not numerical)

Comments: Great session, Andy. Working on our stories!

2) Seven trends in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from Susan McPherson, SVP Global Marketing, Fenton:

  • • Employee engagement
  • • Transparency (In 2002 there were 800 CSR reports; now there are 5,500+ from companies of all sizes)
  • • Interconnectedness (of everything and everyone)
  • • Partnerships and collaboration
  • • Educated consumers, wanting to buy from companies that are doing good
  • • Social media 24/7
  • • Sustainability is cool

Comments: All true, but I would add to these the cost-benefit considerations involved in deciding HOW socially responsible a company should be. For CSR efforts to make business sense, companies need to innovate such that their sustainable practices reduce rather than increase costs and convince customers to buy into a value proposition that includes social responsibility. These are tall orders but are important for CSR to be good for business, scalable, and sustainable – as required for CSR to dramatically impact the social issues of our time.

3) Six Pillars of Cause Marketing Campaigns by Matt Stelza & Nick Cavarra of Incite- Social Impact Marketing. The following six pillars of successful cause marketing campaigns were presented along with many examples of actual campaigns with analysis of the pros and cons of each:

  • • Cause must align with brand
  • • Find your voice
  • • Be transparent and authentic
  • • Be relevant and intentional
  • • Reach people where they are
  • • Measure success against defined metrics

These cause marketing campaign “types” were suggested:

  • • Action (e.g., bring in jeans, get a discount)
  • • Point of sale
Donate to a nonprofit and use their name on packaging
  • • Events
  • • Employee engagement

Comments: These are useful tips and the examples and assessments of actual campaigns made them real. My pillars would include “engage people” meaning engage consumers and their friends directly in campaigns. And I would add a type: “consumer choice” campaigns which empower consumers to direct the company’s marketing or giving dollars to causes meaningful to them.

4) Social Media: What We’ve Learned , Where We’re Heading by Indra Gardiner of i.d.e.a. brand.

Types of social media posts: helpful, delightful, informational, inspiring

Key tools in addition to Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn: Google Analytics,, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Slideshare, and QR Codes (which are overrated).

Comments: My highlights do not do this session justice – I thought Indra was comprehensive and spot on in terms of social media usage, trends and opportunities.

5) Why Your Business Should Have a Social Mission, by Olivia Kahlili of Ashoka Changemakers & Cause Capitalism.

Why do it: Business can be a major force for social impact and improve profits as a result. “Profit is what happens when you do everything else right” – Yvon Choinard, CEO of Patagonia

How to do it:
Start by asking “What does the world need that you can provide?”
Express your social mission, whether it’s cause marketing, volunteering, culture, environmental initiatives, sustainable products, or corporate philanthropy
Start before scale: make a commitment, take small steps and then scale when you’re ready
Internalize and share your social mission
Be unfailingly transparent – “If you’re not scared by what you’re saying, you’re not sharing enough” – Jeffrey Hollender founder of 7th Generation
Keep tabs and improve

Examples of those who’ve done it well:
Interface carpets’ goal is “Zero waste by 2020.” They’re 80% there and have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in manufacturing cost in the process and, reduced greenhouse gasses 40%. Every employee believes they’re
Salesforce expresses their mission as 1,1,1 (1% of employee time, 1% of product given away, 1% of equity given as grants)
Burt’s Bees rewards employees for reducing emissions
After reducing its own waste and emissions Levi’s went the extra mile by creating a clever campaign to inspire and incent consumers to do the same

Comments: This session was grounded in the reality that, for for-profit businesses to continue doing good, it needs to make business sense. It included rich examples, practical steps, and engaged the audience. Very nicely done, Olivia.

6) A smattering of quotes, facts and suggestions I found interesting.

  • • “If we’re overly rational, we will fail to discuss the fundamental questions. We must be prepared to leap before we look” – Neville Billimoria, SVP, Mission Federal Credit Union
  • • Only 0.7% of farmland is certified organic – Laura Gish, Ambassador for Goodwill, Kashi
  • • In 76 countries, it’s illegal (punishable by law) to be gay – Dwayne Crenshaw, LGBT Pride
  • • 3 book recommendations: Born To Be Good by Dacher Keltner, Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Choinard, and The Responsibility Generation by Jeffrey Hollender – recommended by Neville Billimoria and Olivia Kahlili

Final thoughts:

The social issues facing the world, including our local communities, are massive. To meet the challenge of solving them in our lifetime… Non-profits need to become mega-savvy in all things digital and social while operating efficiently and achieving real, measurable, scalable impact. And companies need to innovate such that they improve their bottom lines while operating sustainably and giving back – and should not apologize for business benefits received as a result. If businesses do well by doing good, that will only lead them to do more good! And finally these businesses and non-profits need to collaborate to find the most creative solutions that draw the best out from both.

This event, and others like it, are important steps toward positive social change as they’re catalysts for ideas and improvements across many organizations for months into the future. There should be more forums to accelerate the good socially conscious businesses and organizations are doing. So I’m glad there’s one out West and would love to see one in the Bay Area as well.