New Cause Marketing Standards

Susan G. Komen for the Cure® leaders joined with New York Attorney General  Eric T. Schneiderman to implement new charitable cause marketing standards for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “Cause marketing” campaigns are promotions where it is advertised that the purchase or use of the advertiser’s product will benefit a charity and usually involve fund-raising partnerships between charities and businesses that generate donations based on the purchase of a product or participation in a business partner’s cause marketing program. These best practices call for clear and conspicuous disclosure of any material terms before the consumer makes a purchase, including the name of the charity, the amount of the donation per purchase that will go to charity, the maximum donation (if applicable), whether any consumer action is required to trigger a donation, and the start and end dates of the promotion. This disclosure should be clear and obvious to consumers.

The best practices aim to increase the quality and consistency of disclosure to consumers, requiring participating companies to:

  • Clearly describe the promotion. Companies are encouraged to use a “donor information label,” including information about the name of the charity, the specific dollar amount per purchase that will go to charity, and any caps on the donation, among other things.
  • Allow consumers to easily determine the donation amount. Rather than generic phrases like “a portion of proceeds” will go to charity, companies should state a fixed dollar amount.
  • Be transparent about what is not apparent. If there are contractual limits, if charitable contributions will not be made in cash, or if a fixed amount has been promised to the charity regardless of the number of units sold, companies should disclose those details.
  • Ensure transparency in social media. Likewise, companies should disclose key terms in online marketing.
  • Tell the public how much was raised, clearly disclosing the amount online at the conclusion of each campaign.

The attorney general’s best practices make it clear that they apply not only to promotions conducted through traditional media, but also promotions conducted through social media such as a “like” or “follow” campaign where consumers trigger donations by liking the advertiser on Facebook or following the company on Twitter.

These practices should be considered in conjunction with laws governing cause campaigns. Such campaigns are regulated under the laws of various states, several of which require a company to register the promotion and file a bond and/or a written contract with the charity that contains mandated contractual terms. Transparency is the responsibility of all companies engaging in cause marketing.

The Attorney General’s Best Practices, as well as other guidance and tips for charities and consumers, are available at http://www.charitiesnys.com/cause_marketing.jsp?

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