Companies Don't Care About Nonprofits

Photo via Patrick Feller on Flickr

Companies are less interested in helping your nonprofit than they are in supporting causes that their employees and customers care about.

The latest example is a new initiative from American Honda Motor Company that is working to save America’s drive-ins. The situation is critical. In less than three months, the movie industry will switch from film to digital. New digital projectors aren’t cheap – $80,000 – and many family drive-ins will have to close.

Honda is donating five projectors to drive-ins, and the public will choose who gets them in a new contest called Project Drive-In.

Honda’s efforts to save drive-ins reminds me of another campaign: Nature Valley Trail View. Expanding on a long term commitment to this country’s national parks, Nature Valley did for hiking trails what Google Street View did for roads: allow people to follow and zoom in on trails in four famous parks.

I think campaigns like Honda’s and Nature Valley’s are the future of how businesses will support causes.

The Intersection of Cause, Caring and Location

The future of nonprofit and for-profit partnerships is a move away from kitschy pinups and pink-ribbon toasters to deeper connections that drive brand loyalty. Technology is accelerating the evolution of these partnerships and making them omnipresent and – thanks to mobile devices – portable. Nonprofits that aren’t building and cultivating strong, emotional brands are more endangered than drive-ins – and less likely to be saved.

The Compnay Takes a Backseat

Honda created Project Drive-In, but the brand is putting a “vanishing American icon” in the driver’s seat. The campaign has a unique URL and the Honda logo is not prominently featured. Instead of leading with its name, Honda is driving home the values it shares with consumers.

As a member of the marketing team at Nature Valley explained last year, “Supporting lifestyle causes that your customers care about is what’s going to keep them loyal to you, and when they have a choice, maybe they’ll choose you.”

Every Brand is a Content Creator

Honda is investing in creating online content for the things their customers care for. It’s a direction we’ll see a lot of companies and nonprofits taking as they look beyond just adding value and focus instead on being valuable.

Smaller businesses and causes will respond with their own strategies to deepen their connection with causes and customers. Their results won’t be as sophisticated as Nature Valley’s, but they will blaze their own trail.

Whether you are a large or small business or cause, consumers will expect you to be where they are, to care where they care. Will you make the trip to meet them?

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