Some of the most progressive retail brands have discovered quantifiable marketing success in what may seem like an unlikely place: philanthropy.

It's not what you think. This is not an appeal for increased philanthropy in support of noble corporate citizenship.

To be sure, there are compelling reasons for making charitable commitments—as a means for projecting company values, raising visibility, or giving back to local communities—but there also are strategic ways that philanthropy can affect the bottom line.

It starts with remembering that the key word in "cause marketing" is marketing.

Look no further than one of the Web's most prominent brands—eBay—for a paradigm that is not only harnessing the company's philanthropy to enhance its brand image but also producing ROI.

eBay has built a robust cause-marketing machine within its online platform. The company's program, Giving Works, offers charitable incentives to sellers, giving them the option of donating some of the proceeds of their sales to charity. It also designates what sellers are regular contributors so that potential buyers can support their favorite charity-minded sellers. In effect, eBay has created embedded retail cause marketing to support sellers who want to give back and grow their sales.

The program has lived up to its name—that is, giving works. It not only raised $73 million for various charities last year but also offered good news from a business perspective: The Giving Works program led to a 29% increase in sales among sellers and a two-thirds decrease in customer churn.

The latest consumer research confirms what eBay and socially minded retail marketers already know: Consumers are assimilating charitable elements into their purchasing decisions. More than 90% of consumers say they will buy a product associated with a cause, while 72% would recommend a cause-related brand. And three in four consumers think it's okay for a brand to support good causes while making money.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Chase Cornett

Chase Cornett is director of marketing and brand at PlanG, which helps create brand loyalty through philanthropy. The company and its cause marketing platform help businesses build meaningful relationships with consumers. Reach Chase via chase@MyPlanG.com.

LinkedIn: Chase Cornett

Twitter: @cmcornett