Does Cause Marketing Really Depress Giving?
Recently, there's been a study by the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business circulating that cause marketing — specifically when people buy products tied to charities — depresses charitable giving. While I don't doubt the research's validity, I wonder if it is truly representative of the majority of donors.
The reason? I don't think it's personally true for myself. In fact, I find cause marketing to have the opposite effect on me, at least some of the time. And despite working as the senior editor of FundRaising Success, I don't give what limited amount of extra funds I have to just any cause. Yet when I'm reminded of a great cause during routine purchasing experiences, it makes me think long and hard about donating money to that cause.
Take, for instance, something as easy as being asked to donate a dollar for a free taco. That's exactly what happened to me on Sunday. For all of you healthy diet proponents out there, please avert your eyes from what I'm about to write: On Sunday, I went to Taco Bell — gasp! — on my way home. No matter what your feelings are on the fast-food chain, my trip there was enlightening. When I pulled up to drive-through window after making my order, the cashier asked me if I'd like to donate a dollar to the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens' Graduate to Go program and receive a coupon for a free taco. I gladly did and received the coupon along with my receipt.
When I got home and finished my meal, I examined the coupon further. It incorporated a thank-you right on it — "Thanks for Your Donation" — and provided the URL www.GraduateToGo.com.
According to the study, I would have been content to donate my dollar, get my free taco and be satisfied that I'd done my part. But I was actually intrigued by the Graduate to Go campaign, which was described on the back of the coupon: "Thanks to your generosity, we've given $30 million since 1995 to provide at-risk youth with mentors and real-world experiences that will motivate them to stay in school and graduate to a better life." So I logged on to GraduateToGo.com, explored the site and made a donation.