Toy for TotsIt is time for the annual Toys for Tots campaign by the United States Marine Corp. Toys for Tots collection boxes are placed in over 700 campaign sites throughout the U.S. waiting to be filled with new, unwrapped gifts for children up to 12-years old. Last year Toys for Tots was able to give 16 millions gifts to children in need in communities around the country.
The organization hopes to reach that many children again this year, but the need is great.
The bulk of the 66-year-old campaign’s gifts are made by individual donors according to Major Bill Grein, USMC (Ret), vice president of marketing and development for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. That’s about 85 percent. The rest comes from corporate partners.
The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has formed strategic partnerships with businesses such as Lego, Hasbro, Scholastic and Hess to help them fulfill their mission to share as many toys with disadvantaged children as possible.
That’s where cause-related marketing comes into play. It is a partnership between a non-profit and a for-profit organization where each has something to offer to the other, and there is a benefit to both. Cause-related marketing has become the primary avenue that businesses show their social responsibility.
In a recent Cause Evolution Study by Cone Communications, it was found that 89 percent of consumers surveyed said they would likely switch brands to one coupled with a cause, as long as the price and quality were comparable. And 88 percent of consumers want to hear how companies they purchase from support social and environmental issues. So it is not only good for the community, but it is good for business.

There are different types of cause-related marketing:

Product sales: think of Live Strong bracelets.
Purchase plus: asked to donate a dollar to the Children’s Miracle Network when paying your check at Chili’s.
Licensing of a nonprofit’s logo and/or brand: using the World Wildlife Fund’s iconic panda.
Cobranded events: best known example is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
Public Service Campaigns: Allstate’s ONE campaign with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

What makes for a successful cause-related marketing campaign?

Grein says it is important to develop a relationship, and finding that right person within the organization who can help bring the cause and business together. In Toys for Tots’ situation, there are many retired Marines working within organizations everywhere, which opens doors for them.
When businesses look to align with a cause, it may be wiser to allow the right cause to pick them. A company should align itself with a cause that fits with its core business. The same goes for the nonprofit; it should choose to work with companies that relate naturally to their mission.
The key is to find a natural affinity between the two organizations. Mission-wise, it is a good fit for toy makers and publishers to donate their excess products for a good cause. Toys for Tots its very selective about its partners. It is important to choose your partner well. It is a possibility that one of the partners could do something that damages its reputation and may cast a negative shadow on the other partner as well. It is a win-win when a good fit is found.
Back to Toys for Tots … Grein shares that they will run out of toys before they run of children. To support Toys for Tots either with a cash donation or a toy, visit Toys for Tots.

This column was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday, November 25, 2013.

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