The Pros and Cons of Shopping for a Cause

May 21, 2016

Shop for a Cause
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Businesses partnering with nonprofit causes has been going on as far back as the 70’s. One early example is when in 1979, Famous Amos Cookie Company founder Wally Amos became the spokesperson for Literacy Volunteers of America. A few years later, American Express named its partnership with a Statue of Liberty renovation project “cause related marketing” – and the term has evolved into an established business strategy that mutually benefits organizations and allied companies.

Cause related marketing, or shopping for a cause, is an effortless way that your organization can raise funds while partnering with an established for-profit company. Typically, affiliate merchants will sell products and hand a percentage of the proceeds to your organization. In turn, your affiliates get a boosted reputation of responsibility in the community and appeal to a consumer base that wants their purchases to have social impact.

There are drawbacks, however, the most major of which is that the proceeds from these partnerships are usually very minimal. Having supporters make purchases instead of official donations may also derail them from making more meaningful contributions.

Read on to see the pros and cons of shopping for a cause:

Shopping for a Cause Pros:

1. Expand Your Supporter Reach

Both organization and company get the benefit of exposure to their partner’s audience when they form an alliance. For nonprofits, this means growing your donor database to include those that are primarily interested in shopping at the partnering retailer, yet also want to feel good about contributing to the work of an organization.

2. Increase Your Revenue

When you partner with a for-profit, this typically entails a percentage of the for-profit’s sales proceeds going toward your organization. On Flipcause, there are hundreds of merchant partners donating various portions of proceeds from purchases made through the Flipcause platform.

3. Raise Funds at No Cost

Having merchant partners is a great way to raise funds without putting forth the budget and effort to create more costly fundraisers, like events.

4. Amazon Smile Allows Consumers to Donate Without Changing Behaviors

With hundreds of millions of consumers, Amazon is a great merchant partner for any organization to have. Your supporters don’t have to go to any special link after they have gone through the initial set up for their purchases to go toward your organization. This makes it seamless for all their purchases to turn into donations.

Shopping for a Cause Cons:

1. Business is Not Always Consistent with Philanthropy

This mutual partnership blurs the line between nonprofit and for-profit activities. Make sure that the businesses you partner with are on board with your mission and that their objectives are in line with your organization’s values as to not de-emphasize what your organization is really about.

2. Your Nonprofit’s Reputation is Tied to Your Merchants’ Reputations

You want to be careful to not alienate any supporters by making sure that the reputation of the businesses you pair with are up to par with your organization. What they do reflects on your nonprofit, and vice versa.

3. Donations are Still Paramount

While having merchant partners is a great effortless perk that can increase revenue, donations are far more important to the growth of your organization. The proceeds from shopping for a cause can add up, but typically do not come close to superseding donations. Furthermore, since purchases are not technically donations on behalf of the consumer, the consumer does not get a tax benefit.


With merchant partners, your nonprofit can benefit from an expanded audience and an influx of funds at no cost or effort on your part. It is a win-win situation for companies that want to demonstrate corporate responsibility and attract consumers that want to make socially conscious purchases.

Merchant partnerships, however, are not a guaranteed benefit for smaller organizations without large supporter bases regularly shopping through merchant partner platforms. It is therefore always important to remind your supporters of your merchant partnerships, send them links and promotions, and make your shop for a cause campaigns clear, visible, and easy to use on your website and other communication channels. 
Do you shop for a cause, or run an organization that has raised funds in partnership with  for-profits? Let us know about your experience!

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