(Red) Wrong or Right

Have you heard of the (Red) Campaign? You have probably seen them partnering with huge organizations like GAP, American Express & Motorola. Basically the way the campaign works is you buy a (Red) product and they donate a percentage of that sale to the (Red) Campaign. They have received some negative press recently and I wanted to hear from you what your take on it is. For more details read:
The February 6, New York Times article
Joe Waters’, Selfish Giving, recent post
Susan Hyatt’s The Business Coach, Posting 1, 2, 3

One argument is that these organizations are spending more money marketing these products than they are giving money to Africa. Many say that shopping as a response to human suffering is disrespectful. Businesses need to be careful about how and why they get involved in cause marketing. I agree many businesses could do a lot more than they already are and that more money could be given than already is. It is important that businesses are transparent about how much they are actually giving.

Cause marketing is about more than just financial donation it is about raising awareness. The amount of air time, publicity, and recognition that (Red) has received is invaluable for The Global Fund. If no money was ever donated many charities will spend millions of dollars to receive the community recognition that (Red) has provided. Is shopping for a (Red) product disrespectful? If buying a (Red) product is all that you do and you think you are making a radical difference, maybe.

Ben Davis has started a movement called Buy (Less) CRAP and his idea is that instead of buying a computer to benefit Africa you should give directly to the non-profit and then all the money goes to the charity instead of just a percentage. Great idea, if we want to make a difference in our giving lets give to the source. However, we need computers, we need shirts, we need credit cards. Why not make a difference when I’m purchasing an every day product that I need in addition to my other giving.

Why did this issue make people so mad? I think that there is a larger question here. The problems in the world are bigger than our answers and often times we have a feeling of guilt that comes with our inability to save a life or make a difference. I’d love to talk to you more about the response I’ve found—send me an email and we can chat offline.

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4 Responses to (Red) Wrong or Right

  1. Terri Andrews says:

    The point is, if I make a computer purchase and it triggers a donation to a worthy cause, that “bonus” may swing my decision towards that brand. Yes, I could give the amount I would have spent to XYZ organization, but I still need the computer. The same goes for my mocha latte purchases… if I buy at Starbucks and they give a quarter to Special Olympics, but Dunkin Doughnuts doesn’t, Starbucks wins out. It’s a win/win situation for all of us, and the reason companies should be earmarking portions of their marketing budget to cause based marketing.

  2. There are two types of people; those who give and those who don’t. I think philanthropy often stings those that don’t because it is a reminder that they are self centered.

    I wholeheartedly advocate corporate philanthropy – we need more of it.

  3. I wrote about this very same quandry on November 5th.

    My post, “What Matters? A Rock Star, (Red), Consumerism, Or Fundraising?” is located at http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2007/11/what-matters-rock-star-red-consumerism.html

    Yes, the discussion is interesting.

    I sum up my take on the issue in the last three paragraphs of my post by stating,

    “As professional fundraisers, it’s our responsibility to see donors as individuals choosing to support our organization’s cause, in whichever way they prefer. If there is a relationship that your organization can form with a potential constituent, that the donor may prefer, you can offer it to them. The donor always has the right to say ‘no’. The donor always has the right to ask for a nonprofit’s official documentation, financials, by laws, list of the board of directors, etc. The donor has the right to research nonprofits that they are considering giving to, in order to choose the best possible recipient of their support (whether it be volunteering or donating).

    “If a donor wants to buy a red t-shirt from The Gap and wear it while using a red cell phone; they have the right to choose to do so and their contributing this way is no less ‘helpful’ in the fight against AIDS, than any other fundraising method; IF our goal is to help the people with AIDS.

    “If, though, our goal is to lessen consumerism; or if our goal is to sell khakis then how the funds are raised matters.”

  4. A lot of the backlash is because some people simply don’t like corporations. Non-profits and charities are seen as noble entities while ALL corporations are seen as evil, money hungry, and soul-less. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is seen as window dressing or as an arm of marketing. Nothing a corporation does will ever be good enough for these thinkers. We see this played out in politics all the time.

    And, I’m not so sure they’re wrong. It would be much easier to get consumer buy in to your cause marketing effort if it was there, front and center, at the start-up of a company or organization. Let your cause marketing grow right alongside of the corporation/organization.

    If its added on afterwards, it may be seen as little more than flavor of the month or a shallow attempt at some positive PR.

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