As I was listening to WAMC’s Roundtable the other day while driving to meet with one of our clients, one of the station’s listeners called in expressing great concern about our nation’s new immigration policy that literally pulls apart children and parents as they attempt to cross our borders. The listener said that while she had never really paid much attention to the illegal immigration debate, she started to cry at the cruelty and trauma of tearing children away from parents with no explanation and sending them to live with strangers alone in a strange country.
“It’s deeply upsetting,” the woman said to the radio panel. “Particularly because I don’t know what to do about it.”
Thankfully, one of the panelists jumped in immediately. “There’s lots you can do. Firstly, we have primary elections coming up here in New York later this month and then the 2018 mid-terms in November. You can make sure you vote for candidates who will fight to change such policies. You can volunteer at one of the many groups here in the Hudson Valley dedicated to helping immigrant families. If you have the money, you can make a donation to one of those groups who help immigrants or children of immigrants. And you can write letters to your local, state and federal lawmakers expressing your concern about the way these families are being handled.”
Despite the seriousness of the subject, listening to the panelist talk so definitively about the many ways this caller could help, I immediately felt better, lighter. Not because the problem instantly had been solved, far from it, but because in a 30-second response, the panelist reminded all us listeners of the power of cause-related marketing: anyone can make a difference if she is just willing to act.
The success of cause-related marketing relies primarily on two concepts: a passion to advance a cause, idea or activity you believe in and effectively educating and persuading others to join you in supporting that cause, be it protecting our civil rights, funding for the arts, combating climate change, working to eradicate mental illness, cancer or heart disease, stopping gun violence, improving public education, building more playgrounds and public swimming pools for disadvantaged youth or advocating for universal health care or thousands of other worthy causes.
Not everyone is comfortable writing letters or calling or emailing their Congress member. And most of us lack the resources to donate large amounts of money to one or more nonprofit organizations. But a well-run cause-related marketing campaign takes that into account by drawing on the individual skills and interests of your supporters, volunteers and staff to appeal to a variety of audiences using multiple communications and outreach techniques.
Perhaps that means recruiting people to drive senior citizens and others who don’t have cars to the polls to vote at upcoming June 26 primary; or asking those who enjoy the outdoors to hand out flyers at the local Metro North Station or at public parks about your organization; if you have volunteers who love to exercise, ask if they would be willing to walk through a neighborhood going door-to-door educate neighbors about your organization’s latest initiative, or participate in fun runs, triathlons or bungee jumps to raise money and/or call attention to your cause.
Others possess strong nurturing skills that they can use to help kids to learn, nursing or visiting the sick or infirm, or helping to care for abandoned animals at a local pet shelter. Others who have dynamic personalities or innate charisma that makes people naturally gravitate to them can be trained as spokespersons, head up committees or lead a delegation to Albany or Washington, DC to advocate for new or amended laws or government funding in support of your cause. Those with a gift for narrative can interview the people your organization benefits and write up stories for your website, newsletters or educational brochures to help potential supporters empathize with your cause or better understand what your organization does.
Nearly all the clients we represent here at Impact, regardless of whether they are businesses or nonprofits, are focused on helping others. Whether lending money to women or people of color to start their own businesses, assisting parents in setting up a Medicaid Trust or Guardianship for a child with special needs; providing children with behavioral problems or mental health issues with crucial therapy; helping patients regain full range of movement after sustaining an injury; making sure that seniors have a save, nurturing place to live; helping clients plan for their future or protecting the civil rights of individuals who may have been wrongfully accused; or teaching people on the autism spectrum how to function effectively at school, work and life.
It’s why we feel privileged that you choose to work with us, and are committed to doing all we can to help each of you achieve your public relations and communications goals. For we, like you, know that the only way that people can fail to make a difference is through complacency or being so overwhelmed by fear or the numerous choices and decisions they face that they fail to do anything at all.
Sandi Sonnenfeld was Associate Vice President at Impact PR & Communications.