What if you can give money to a good cause and make more money in the process?
Sounds like a dream? Or is this the next iteration of eCommerce?
And here’s the kicker, the brands doing great with cause marketing are giving back and increasing conversion rate, average order value, and retention with their (more) loyal customers.
Imagine, giving back 5% of revenue resulting in a 15% increase in conversion rate, thus lowering your Cost Per Acquisition and increasing your Return on Ad Spend, all while doing good for a cause that your brand aligns with.
This is why cause marketing is taking off.
And personally, I think the most important thing, if you’re looking to give back with your brand, is finding a way to do it that is sustainable and scalable. Meaning, not some sort of one-off campaign, or something that is considered a cost to the business, but instead, an alignment of brand and cause that drives real value to all parties involved - the customer, the brand, and the cause.
Now, before we get into the tools, let’s cover some key points first…
What is Cause Marketing?
Cause marketing is incorporating a giveback or social good component into your business, such as donating to charity, giving your product away to those in need, or standing up for social justice.
It’s more than simply donating money to charity, which many businesses do. It needs to be incorporated into a campaign, loyalty program, product, or simply just become part of the business - to give back.
The business is saying, “we will spend some of our (marketing) budget towards the cause, and in return, our audience will appreciate our brand just a little bit more, and maybe the audience is also getting involved in donating”.
And cause marketing is not limited to donations, it can also be about awareness - diversity, gender, and discrimination, among other cause awareness - and about incorporating forms of sustainability, such as planting trees, recycling, or giving time towards a cause.
When Should an Ecommerce Brand think about Integrating a Cause Marketing Platform?
Cause marketing is the fabric of many businesses like Toms shoes, which gives a pair to someone in need for every pair purchased, or Patagonia’s fight for environmental friendliness with their Worn Wear program.
Any brand can start by integrating with a cause from day one of the business. It doesn’t have to be a cost. It doesn’t have to be resource intensive. And there aren’t significant barriers to entry, especially with the tools that we will show you below.
That being said, if you’re an established merchant and aren’t associated with any causes right now, the question you’re asking yourself is: Where and how would I begin?
And the answer has to do with the resources in the company and the ability for you and your team, and all stakeholders involved, to align around a cause. Only from there will the impact for both the cause and the brand really start to align and become core to the business, and really work for the business.
So the questions you need to ask before you embark are:
- Are you capable of investing the time and energy into incorporating a cause into your business?
- Are you willing to stand up for something and give back?
- And, from a business standpoint, can you justify the risk, the hit to margin, the investment, etc.?
If yes, then let’s dive into some of the amazing platforms that make executing a full-fledged cause marketing campaign much easier for merchants like yourself.
What Cause Marketing Platform is Right For Me?
Factors to consider when choosing a platform include:
Region - Some of these platforms are limited to USA nonprofits, others can be used internationally. Make sure the platform fits your regionality needs, typically what matters most is where you are incorporated or bank from.
Campaign vs Ongoing - Some of these tools are more specific to big 1-time or repetitive campaigns as opposed to a consistent on-going “lifetime” campaign.
Social Media - Do you need your cause marketing platform to tie into social media, to track influencers, etc.
Finances - You’re talking about collecting money from possibly thousands of people and then pledging to give a percentage of that to a cause. This can lead to a lot of paperwork. What happens if there are refunds, discrepancies? Does this platform help you manage this process start to finish and where are their limitations when it comes to managing the money? Do they collect the money themselves or just give you an invoice to send, or something else?
Features - Starting with your store widget. Where on your store will this widget be displayed? What are the limitations and settings of this widget? Can I set donation amounts by product, brand, category, etc.?
Integrations - Where do you need your data tied into? Quickbooks? Commerce? Xero? Do we need to incorporate a review tool (give to a cause for a review), a loyalty program, customer service?
The Shortlist of Best Cause Marketing Platforms for eCommerce
B2B Social Commerce Platform
Best for: Established Mid-Market Merchants
ShoppingGives is a B2B social commerce platform that allows companies to make charitable donations through their customers' purchases. It rethinks the relationship between cause marketing and retailers, providing an opportunity for giving that was previously limited to top retailers.
ShoppingGives takes care of the entire process of donation tracking, reconciliation, reimbursement and tax deductible donation receipts. This is huge and why social giving was previously only possible for large retailers that had the bandwidth to figure all those things themselves. The platform integrates right into your store, connecting your shoppers with every non-profit in the United States. You decide which products or purchases you will give back on along with the percentage you will give and then customers can decide which organization they want their money to go to.
They integrate directly with Shopify / Plus, and WooCommerce and if you’re on another platform you can do a custom integration.
- Donation Tracking
- Order Reconciliation
- Donation Disbursement
- Tax Deductible Donation Receipt
- Store Widget
- Checkout Widget
- Set Donation by Product
- Donation Matching
They have a pay as you go starter plan that takes a 0.5% transaction rate for up to 20 orders with a donation in them, but that is really just for testing out the tool. From there the platform really begins at $270/month ($285/month if you don’t do an annual contract). Clearly this is a little bit of a cost and you should have at least a couple hundred orders a month coming in to justify the impact of the tool vs the cost.
Shop for Good Cause Marketing Platform
Best for: Mid-Market and Plus Merchants
DailyKarma's app “Shop for Good” is a cause marketing platform that gives customers multiple ways to get involved with your brands cause marketing efforts. You install the tool, select the nonprofits that resonate with your brand, choose the type of campaign you want to run (and then you can build your own marketing campaigns and strategies behind that - such as promoting on social, etc.), and then launch, track, and optimize your campaign through their analytics dashboard.
You have the option of using a “Donate for Discount” widget, have customers “Round Up” sales to the nearest dollar and donate that, simply do a percentage of sales, or match their donation.
They integrate directly with Shopify and Plus (with a checkout widget for the Plus merchants) and if you’re on another platform you can do a custom integration.
- Impact Tracker
- Customer Facing Widgets
- Donation Matching
- Point of Sales (POS) Donating
- Round-Up Campaigns
- Customer's Choice
- Custom Donation Per Product
- Donate for Discount Campaigns
- Donation Tiers
- Donation Processing, Tax Receipts & Fundraising Compliance
For their growing partners, they have a free to install tier that takes a 10% donation processing fee & credit card transaction fee that is deducted from the donations prior to distribution. Paid plans (in which 100% of the donations accrued go to the intended nonprofits) starts at $255 with an annual commitment. For more information contact their team to learn more.
Legal Compliance & Donations Tech for Modern Cause Marketing Campaigns
Best for: Mid-Market and Enterprise companies
Change is a donation processing and compliance solution for businesses who want to give back. Change combines a comprehensive legal compliance methodology with an intuitive donations API that integrates into any ecommerce checkout. Track your impact and manage nonprofit payouts directly in the Change dashboard. Change has worked with companies like Topicals, Care/of, and Brex to launch cause marketing campaigns like round-ups at checkout and loyalty/rewards points donations.
- Donations – Securely and promptly donate to nearly 1M nonprofits
- Compliance – A turnkey compliance solution for all fifty U.S. states, including support for both commercial co-ventures and professional fundraisers
- Nonprofit Info – Use Change's robust search APIs to access missions, EINs, social media accounts and more for nearly 1 million pre-vetted nonprofits.
Cause Oriented Post Purchase Discounts
Best for: Post-purchase engagement
GoodCarts is a free to use app that operates like a discount on the back of your digital receipt, engaging the customer after they purchase. Once the purchase is complete, they send the user over to GoodCarts to browse through discounts and offers and select one. If the user selects an offer, they are emailed a discount on that product/service. With over 75 cause oriented offers on the platform, there’s a for-good component to the business, even though it doesn’t appear to be exclusively cause-oriented offers on GoodCarts.
Unlike other solutions GoodCarts does not require any reconciliations or tax compliance because they are not directly taking money from you for any cause; they are sending your traffic over to other sites/causes.
This tool is fundamentally different from other cause marketing platforms because it is helping you get traffic while having your post-purchase traffic redirect to other causes or stores.
- Post-Purchase Widget
- Discount / Offer Generator
- Get Traffic and New Customers from GoodCarts
The tool is free to use for all merchants and completely free for cause-oriented brands. They do take a small commission of sales for non-cause oriented brands, specifically for any sales they drive to your store - tracked through their platform and the unique discount/offer you generated to receive that traffic.
Round Up Purchases for Donation
Best for: Simplified Cause Marketing Efforts
RoundUp is a brilliantly simple app: Install it, select non-profits, link bank accounts as appropriate, let the giving begin. As the name suggests, the tool is specifically for allowing the customer to round up the change to the nearest dollar, and allows you to also match that donation if you so choose. Donations are calculated by RoundUp and dished out monthly automatically through your bank. All credit card information is secured through Stripe so there is no concern for financial risk.
Right now the tool only integrates with BigCommerce, Drupal, and WooCommerce, with more integrations coming soon.
- Choose from 1.5 Million Charities
- Round up Widget
- Donation Matching
- Automated Donation Process
RoundUp is completely free… I’m still trying to figure out how they make money, as the tool seems to be 100% free with no fees of any kind.
As with most tech decisions, we recommend vetting 2 - 4 tools in more detail, demoing the 1-2 that seem to be the best fit, and locking in the tool that works best for you. After you start integrating your cause marketing tool, you may need help in a few other areas, such as:
SMS Marketing - Texting to close more sales will get more donations and keep a closer relationship with your customers. Here’s our roundup of SMS Marketing tools
Influencer Marketing - you need to get in touch with influencers that align with the cause and can help spread the word to their audiences. Sometimes the non-profit is also a potential influencer. Here’s a roundup on Influencer marketing tools.
Price Testing - Since you might be changing your margins, maybe now would be a good time to do some price testing on your products. You want to answer that question: can I increase the price by 1% and then donate 1% to charity without breaking the business? Here’s a podcast episode on price testing that may be worth listening to about that.