OPINION: Hot Issue - Do charities undervalue their brand in CRM partnerships?

Business in the Community has developed a new tool which, for the first time, helps charities to measure the value of cause related marketing (CRM).

Using information from 45 organisations, the Cause Related Marketing Tracker has shown that more than £33 million was raised in cash and kind in 2001.


Charities that regularly take the lead in CRM initiatives do a good job of upholding and maintaining the value of their brand.

Once an organisation has had a string of successes to its name, prospective partners are more than willing to honour the value of that brand. At Breast Cancer Care, we now find ourselves in that enviable position but it was certainly a hard won battle over several years.

Charities about to undertake a CRM initiative may be tempted to undersell themselves in order to crack that first deal. Some may even place too high a value on the brand thereby risking the potential partnership and future credibility.

For charities at this stage of the process, it always makes sense to sit back and make a realistic assessment of the situation from both your point of view and your potential partner's. Undervaluing your brand can potentially render the partnership very one-sided and overvaluing can send out the wrong signals.


Our CRM relationship with Help the Aged has been positive - both parties clearly understand the nature of the relationship and the roles each can play in delivering mutual benefit.

Before starting the relationship, it was clear that Help the Aged understood the value of its brand, while also recognising the potential benefit of linking with a leading consumer brand such as British Gas.

Crucially, the charity was not prepared to compromise its integrity for a short-term commercial relationship. There is a considerable degree of heritage, trust and goodwill contained in the Help the Aged brand and it was not prepared to engage in activities that would damage its long-term strategy. This positioning was made clear at the planning and preparation stage and has enabled a successful relationship to flourish.

Charities should be confident in the value that their brand can bring to the CRM arena and not settle for second best or be swayed by the promise of short-term funding.


Charities can undervalue their brand in any sort of partnership and therefore must always have their eyes wide open.

I recently saw a charity endorsing companies' products with its brand on packs and in advertising. So I enquired about the charity's evaluation process of the products it endorses and how it evaluates remuneration. You can imagine my surprise when the answer implied a poorly planned approach to what is perhaps the charity's highest-profile activity.

So while I'm losing sleep over this example, I want to warn others about venturing down this road. Look to your colleagues in this sector, do your research and use the Business in the Community CRM guidelines. Charities depend on familiarity, trust and the reputation of their brand for their very livelihood.

Some charities have valued their brand and have a policy defining companies they will and won't work with.

This helps ensure that the brand is not undervalued or its reputation damaged.


Many charities could be more conscious of the value of the brand they have to sell.

However, all voluntary organisations which consider entering this type of partnership must exercise ethical due diligence on the companies they work with. CRM comes out of marketing budgets which are far larger than corporate social responsibility (CSR) budgets. If charities go into these relationships with their eyes open, the future of CRM could be bright.

Nonetheless, many others may never be in a position to benefit from CRM at all. It is not well suited to the small and local, never mind those who work in unpopular or marginalised areas. So, as well as asking how charities can maximise the benefits of CRM schemes, we should also be looking at the wider CSR agenda.

Companies must be persuaded that there is a business case for support of the sector which goes beyond use of a brand to improve public image.

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