The state of charity, cause related marketing and sustainability

charity, cause related marketing, corporate social responsibility, sustainabilityThe state of charity, cause marketing and sustainability – the start of the debate

I have recently been engaged in discussion with a national company regarding the issues of charity, cause marketing and sustainability.

It started with a post at the site Mumbrella dealing with a cause related marketing project that was undertaken by 1234 (a subsidiary of Sensis who are owned by Telstra). You can find the original Mumbrella post here.

I posted a comment because the story  struck a note with me.  What really caught my attention was the level of  return to the charity involved appearing to be out of proportion to the potential value of the use of their well deserved community image.

A great deal of commentary went back and forward between people on the site, including from members of the ad agency which produced the campaign, representatives of the charity involved in the campaign and representatives of 1234/Sensis. Some of this conversation was around the issues of what is cause related marketing vs sustainability vs corporate social responsibility and by default what constitutes charity.

I expressed my opinion as did quite a few others, with one of the consistent threads seeking some clarity about what the rationale behind the campaign.

In the comments I hope I was clear and transparent, and I declared my interest and the fact that I run another charity (which is the Samuel Morris Foundation if you are unfamiliar with me or this site).

A right of reply to 1234

Mumbrella provided 1234 an opportunity to respond directly with a quest post to set out the company position. An opportunity that they took up in the post why Sensis believes in the cause. You can make up your own mind about the quality of the “official” response from their communications manager.

Getting it right by the personal approach

What I found interesting and what I greatly appreciated was the personal response from Sensis’ head of sustainability.  Jillian reached out on a personal basis offering a direct line of contact and offering a discussion about the potential of undertaking a project with the Samuel Morris Foundation.

An exchange of emails and information took place and information about the Samuel Morris Foundation was circulated to the marketing teams  around the country within Sensis. The communication with the head of sustainability was friendly, efficient and very clear including explaining a number of items around Sensis’ strategic cycle in relation to choosing community partners etc.  [in the interests of full disclosure there is no project between the Samuel Morris Foundation and Sensis, this post is just my thoughts on the discussion]

A win or a loss?

I suppose it is a question around any debate, but I don’t think this is a win/loss situation.

Ultimately the original cause related marketing  charity partner appears happy with the outcome of the project. Sensis/1234 have taken some positive action in relation to assisting in a social issue and a senior member of their team has reached out to a potential new partner on a personal basis and has helped make a number of people within her business aware of the work of a charity that they may otherwise not have heard about.

So while there may be some debate about the original project and some of its elements the important point is that Sensis has shown a commitment to working with community partners, something which a lot more business’ should be doing.

I think that on many levels this overall discussion has been a win/win.

what about charity, cause related marketing and sustainability?

They are really interesting things to think about and a lot can and has been said. I think however that this RSAnimate clip featuring work by philosopher  Slavoj Zizek and his thoughts on the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving says way more, far more eloquently than I ever could…

so if you are interested in the concepts of charity, cause related marketing, corporate social responsibility and sustainability take 11 minutes out of your life to watch this…