Strategies for a Successful, Compliant Cause Marketing Campaign

May 24 is Red Nose Day, a campaign by Walgreens and Comic Relief that invites supporters to “get their red nose on,” upload their best comic selfies, and raise money to fight child poverty. The success of Red Nose Day underscores the growing popularity of cause marketing campaigns, also called commercial co-ventures, in which businesses and nonprofits engage in revenue-generating activities to benefit a charitable cause. In this post, we’ll look at some of the strategies employed by the Red Nose Day campaign and provide compliance tips for businesses and nonprofits considering a commercial co-venture.

Marketing With Purpose

Red Nose Day was created by Richard Curtis, writer-director of films such as “Love Actually” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” The campaign “leverages the power of entertainment to bring the nation together to have fun and make a difference for children in need—here in America and around the world,” and has raised over $1 billion globally since its launch in the U.K. in 1988.1

While Red Nose Day has achieved much of its success through celebrity endorsement and support from major brands, the tactics can be scaled to serve the needs of businesses and nonprofits of any size that want to team up for a good cause.

Following are marketing strategies employed as part of Red Nose Day.

Portion-of-purchase: The foundation of the campaign is sale of $1 foam rubber noses at Walgreens, the exclusive retailer for the campaign in the U.S., which donates all profits from sales to the Red Nose Day Fund.

Walgreens also solicits cash donations at the register. These are both examples of point-of-sale campaigns.

Crowdfunding: Buying the red nose is just the beginning. Participants are encouraged to wear their noses and upload photos and videos on social media as part of individual fundraising efforts. Both Walgreens and Red Nose Day host Facebook pages dedicated to the campaign.

Charitable events: In 2017, Walgreens hosted “Ride On For Red Noses Day,” featuring a professional-grade road cycling event as well as community rides set up by individuals and groups, with funds gathered through an online platform developed for the campaign.

Branded merchandise: In addition to its eponymous red noses, the cause is supported by sales of branded merchandise such as t-shirts, wristbands, and badges.

Community stakeholders: The campaign includes extensive resources, including lesson plans and videos, for schools that want to get in on the fun and host Red Nose Day fundraising events.

Corporate sponsorship: In addition to Walgreens, key partners include NBC, the campaign’s official broadcaster; Mars, Inc.; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These sponsors, along with brands such as Coke, Orbit, Starbucks, M&Ms, Skittles, Windex, Lipton, and many others, work to spread the word and gain support for the campaign.

Celebrity endorsement: Many stars have donned the red nose, including Jack Black, Julia Roberts, Seth Rogan, Coldplay, Keira Knightley, and the cast of “Love Actually.”

BYO fundraiser: The campaign also encourages participants to create their own fundraisers from a gallery of suggestions on its website, including bake sales, yard sales, swear jars, and car washes.

Takeaways for Businesses and Nonprofits

As the $1 rubber nose illustrates, branded merchandise doesn’t have to be pricey to make an impact.  A portion-of-purchase campaign can be as simple as selling wristbands, frisbees, or hats to support a local cause.

Leveraging social media to amplify and engage supporters is another winning strategy for fundraisers of all types and sizes. The success of Red Nose Day is founded on user-generated content that lets supporters actively participate in activities that are fun and entertaining in their own right.

Celebrity and corporate endorsements can also be deployed on a smaller, local scale. Endorsements by business leaders, sports figures, and entertainers in your local community can boost publicity and engagement.

Involving schools and other community groups is another tactic worth borrowing. Depending on the charitable cause you’re supporting, various community organizations might be eager to come on board and champion your campaign.

Finally, charitable events are a proven fundraising mechanism, encompassing everything from car washes and dog walks to golf tournaments.

As these strategies illustrate, you have a wealth of creative options when laying out a cause marketing campaign. And by taking time to build your fundraising strategy and inject creativity into your campaign, you’ll be more likely to engage and inspire today’s media-savvy, entertainment-hungry audiences.

Creating a Compliant Campaign

If you’re thinking of exploring cause marketing for your business or nonprofit, there are a few regulatory requirements you’ll need to address to protect your organization and leadership from the risks of unlicensed charitable solicitation.

In 41 states, nonprofits must register for charitable solicitation as part of any fundraising effort, and in four more states, special disclosure language must be included in all solicitations. In addition, 24 states have special requirements for co-venturers such as specific disclosure language to be used in advertising or provisions to be included in in the co-venture contract. Alabama, California, Massachusetts, and South Carolina require the business to register and submit a copy of the contract within a prescribed period before launch of the campaign. In Illinois, the nonprofit must register and file the contract. Wherever contracts are required, the co-venturers must generally file a financial statement at the end of the campaign summarizing receipts and expenditures. In Massachusetts, co-venturers must secure a bond.

If you hire professional fundraisers or fundraising counsel as part of your campaign, they are subject to further requirements. Our comprehensive guide breaks down the requirements for fundraising professionals in all 50 states.

We have helped many businesses and nonprofits register for cause marketing campaigns locally and nationwide. If you’re interested in exploring your options, or if you have questions about licensing for any aspect of your operations, feel free to reach out or give us a call at 1-888-995-5895. Our compliance specialists are here to help.

1. “Red Nose Day Campaign returns to NBC on May 24, 2018,” Red Nose Day. Web.


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