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Philanthropy lingers on my mind after a presentation I gave last week to alumni and development officers from New England schools/universities....

So, I took note of new IEG research (as reported in PROMO magazine) indicating that spending on cause-related marketing is on a steep increase.
The figures:
* Cause-marketing spending will rise 20.5% this year to $1.34 billion (from $1.11 billion last year).
* The projected increase makes cause marketing the fastest growing segment of sponsorship.
As William Chipps, senior editor of IEG Sponsorship Report, said in a statement, "Companies are realizing the powerful marketing benefits that can be gleaned from nonprofit affiliations."
Let me add my own emphasis to that statement:
Companies should be realizing the powerful marketing to women benefits that can be gleaned from nonprofit affiliations.
While a lot of big and small brands already have some sort of cause marketing in place, what I gathered from reading that IEG newsletter was that it might be worth expanding the parameters of existing sponsoring relationships -- or becoming more creative with them.
One such example is Ryka, a women's athletic shoe brand. For three years, they had been involved with the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, but realized the brand needed to be connecting with a more active, slightly younger group of women.
So, the marketing team at Ryka identified a much better fit with the Iron Girl series -- which includes, among other things, a much more diverse line-up of ways to connect with their demographic of interest (active, 25 -to-34-year old women).
Katie Clifford, Ryka's marketing manager, shared her bottomline:

"We are a small company and don't have the marketing budget of some of the bigger brands. But sponsorship lets us build one-to-one connection with the consumer and that is what we're after."

Women are looking for this more personal, human-scale connection with an organization or brand, because, from that vantage point, they can also suss out how well others (or the common good, in general) will be served as a part of their purchase or participation.
As Helen Fisher wrote in The First Sex : "Darwin reasoned that the female of the species naturally extends her empathy, selflessness, and nurturing 'toward her fellow-creatures,' not just her young."
Women are wired toward empathy and nurturing/care for others. They can't turn it on and off depending on the situation, so it even plays a role in a woman's brand consideration.
It's really just one more stop along her longer, it-all-matters, buying path. So, does your brand deliver on the cause front?
There are many powerful and creative ways to increase or enhance your cause involvement, and there are so very many deserving organizations. If your brand isn't already doing so, it may be time to commit to meaningful/fitting cause-involvement (not just a symbolic logo on a finish-line banner). Women, especially, will notice the reflection of your good works in the world.
What are some of your ideas?

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image of Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.