Consumers Reward Cause-Supporting Companies

October 14, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Sponsorships

Despite lean economic times, 78% of US consumers think companies should either maintain or increase their level of financial support for causes and nonprofit organizations, according to research conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for Cone.

The 2008 Cone Cause Evolution Study found that consumers are both more aware of and more receptive to cause-related messages than ever before, and they will reward socially conscious companies both with money and goodwill if they feel they are supporting a good cause.

While most consumers (75%) say it is important for companies to offer them a way to purchase a product that supports a cause, they also want to be offered a range of other ways to support issues they care about.


Additional findings:

  • 85% of Americans say they have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about. This number remains unchanged from 1993 survey results.
  • 85% feel it is acceptable for companies to involve a cause in their marketing (compared with 66% in 1993).
  • 79% say they would be likely to switch from one brand to another, when price and quality are about equal, if the other brand is associated with a good cause (compared with 66% in 1993).
  • 38% percent have bought a product associated with a cause in the last 12 months (compared with 20% in 1993).

Choice, Relevance, Practicality Key

When deciding to support a company’s cause efforts, consumers consider choice, relevance and practicality to be most important:

  • 84% want to select their own cause.
  • 83% say personal relevance is key.
  • 80% believe the specific nonprofit associated with the campaign matters.
  • 77% say practical incentives for involvement, such as saving money or time, are important.
  • 65% find emotional incentives for involvement, such as it making them feel good or alleviating shopping guilt, important.
  • Prior to purchasing a cause-related product, 80% believe it is important that the company have a significant impact on the cause and 75% consider whether they stand to make a difference themselves.

“Consumers want to feel a connection to the issue and the nonprofit while fulfilling their personal needs,” said Alison DaSilva, EVP, knowledge leadership and insights at Cone. “While this is a tall order for companies, it provides great opportunity for continued innovation and business growth.”

Priority Issues for Business and Society

More than half (52%) of Americans think companies should maintain their level of financial support for causes and nonprofit organizations despite tough economic times, while another quarter (26%) expect companies to give even more.

The leading issues that Americans want companies to address in their cause programs are consistent with growing domestic and global needs, the study said.


These issues include:

  • Education (80%)
  • Economic development (job creation, income generation, wealth accumulation, etc.)? (80%)
  • Health and disease (79%)
  • Access to clean water (79%)
  • Environment (77%)
  • Disaster relief (77%)
  • Hunger (77%)

Nearly nine in 10 Americans (89%) say it is important that business, government and nonprofits collaborate to solve pressing social and environmental issues.

Communication Disconnect

An overwhelming majority (91%) of Americans believe companies should tell them how they are supporting causes, but many do not feel they are getting sufficient information. Only 58% of Americans say companies are providing enough details about their cause efforts. Half also think the government or other third parties should regulate cause marketing by companies.

“Progressive organizations are moving away from…simply picking an issue and a partner off the shelf – as they evaluate how societal needs and business growth are intrinsically linked,” said DaSilva. “Consumers are seeking more information about the details of the program, the issue and the impact that they and the company are having. Companies must not only answer, ‘What do you stand for?’ but also ‘What do you do?'”

About the study: The survey was conducted online, August 14-15, 2008 by Opinion Research Corporation among a demographically representative US sample of 1,071 adults, including 500 men and 571 women age 18+.

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