People Need a More Powerful reason to Engage. They Need a Cause.

Why Your Association Needs a Cause

Why Your Association Needs a Cause

Your members want to feel part of something bigger than themselves. They want to make a difference in the lives of others. Sure, your organization has offerings to help them make a difference—education, conferences, certifications, and networking. But, increasingly, these are not compelling enough reasons to pay dues, travel to your events, sign up for workshops, or spend time on your networks.

People need a more powerful reason to engage. They need a cause.

When people care about a cause, they are willing to throw their passion, energy, time, and money behind it. There is almost nothing they won’t do if they think it will make a difference. This is a powerful force your association can tap into to drive outcomes, build long-term loyalty, and ensure sustainability.

What defines a cause

A cause is a simple, easily understandable, highly relevant idea that members can embrace, rally around, and spread. It’s more than a short-lived marketing campaign or slogan. And it’s more powerful than any event, product, or certification you can offer.

A cause must be something your members truly care about, and it must have movement behind it. The goal is to unite people and incite action to change more lives. Your members, especially the millennials, are more likely to support a cause than a particular organization.

Great examples of current cause marketing include REI’s #OptOutside campaign and Walgreens’ Red Nose Day. Even Apple taps into this idea with its focus on innovation and lifestyle versus actual products.


How you can use cause marketing

Cause marketing starts with values, not a sales pitch. People are naturally drawn to individuals and entities that share their values. To identify your association’s underlying values, consider why you do the work you do. Next, match your values to audience values, goals, and pain points. From there, you’ll need to incorporate these ideas into your messages and offers.

Here are four ways to let values drive your cause marketing:
1. Use “because”

The word “because” can help you connect the dots between your association’s values and those of your audience. Consider the difference between the sentences below. The first one merely states a feature, while the second one inspires possibilities.

  • Attend our conference for exclusive networking opportunities.
  • Attend our conference because you’ll connect with industry veterans who are eager to help you.

2. Include compelling visuals

Really show people what it’s like to support your cause by including dynamic, original visuals in your campaigns. Images with emotion move people while they tell your story. Be sure to choose visuals that are in line with the rest of your brand’s look and feel for continuity.


3. Don’t make it about you

Keep the focus on the audience and the cause, not on your organization. It doesn’t matter if your association is the biggest or oldest or if your offerings are the best. People really only care about the benefits that result from your efforts. Answer these questions: How will your association, conference, or offerings change lives? Who would be affected if your organization didn’t exist?


4. Prove your value

If you can’t prove that your cause is making a difference, people won’t support it. Track progress toward goals and celebrate major milestones. Publish your successes on social media and in your marketing campaigns. Show people their efforts generate real results and they’ll keep up the good work.


It’s time for new tactics

Many marketing tactics that worked in the past just aren’t resonating these days. No matter how great your message or offer is, people are tired of yet another sales pitch. They also have too many alternatives at their fingertips when it comes to information, training, and thought leadership. It’s often hard to justify an expense, like attending a conference. But it’s much easier to justify supporting a cause you believe in. It’s for the good of the world, after all.

Cause marketing is especially effective when it comes to reaching millennials. This generation values social responsibility. They want to make a difference. Millennials are passionate, energetic, and dedicated, but only if they really care. Give them a reason to care. Give them a cause they can rally around. (More on how to reach this key group next time.)

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