Most of America's businesses rallied around charitable causes in
the aftermath of September 11 in ways not seen since WWII. Responses
ranged from financial support for well-established charities such as the
Red Cross and United Way to creating foundations for victims'
However disillusioned people might have become with the channeling of
some of these funds, this philanthropic zeal has been inspiring in its
conviction and impressive in its scope.
Clearly, strategic philanthropy and cause-related marketing will become
even more critical issues for corporate communications and consumer
In fact, the recent increase in corporate altruism, combined with
increased consumer expectation, is likely to result in their becoming
the accepted norm.
This change brings with it a new group of challenges. Support for
nonprofit organizations addressing vital social programs prior to
September 11 has plummeted dramatically, while start-up organizations
and funds designed to bring relief to victims of the terrorist attacks
and their families have the burden of creating the processes and
protocols necessary to achieve their mission.
The PR industry must take a leadership role in determining what these
challenges mean for our clients, and help them navigate this new
environment. In the months and years ahead, we must develop
philanthropic and cause marketing programs that provide our clients with
the maximum return for the causes they support - and for the company and
Now is the time to talk with our clients and make some important
Key audiences, both internal and external, expect companies to
demonstrate social responsibility. And if corporations cut funding to
existing nonprofit partners in order to funnel support to relief
efforts, there will be a serious negative backlash.
We must help our clients bring strategic focus to corporate giving and
cause-related marketing to increase the impact for both the cause and
the corporation. There are legitimate and acceptable ways to leverage a
relationship with a cause to build a stronger emotional bond with
consumers and employees. But we must help our clients understand exactly
how to do that.
In addition, it is critical that corporate giving or cause marketing
programs be designed and managed to deliver measurable and meaningful
results. Consumers and employees are sophisticated, and will detect
superficial support for a cause used as a PR ploy.
This is a new and challenging time for corporations engaged in altruism,
but with proper planning and thoughtful execution, corporate America can
make a difference.
David Zucker is an SVP, director of CauseWorks at Porter Novelli's
philanthropic and cause-related marketing practice.