Cause Marketing Glossary: Every Term You Need to Know

Cause marketing is an innovative field driven by collaboration between nonprofits and corporate partners. Get the lay of the land with this comprehensive cause marketing glossary.




Activism: Activism refers to any efforts by individuals or groups to effect change in their communities (from their neighborhood to their planet).

Advocacy: Advocacy is support for ideas, initiatives, or service to others that takes the form of action—such as writing letters to politicians, protesting, raising money, or direct involvement with the cause.

Authenticity: Authenticity in cause marketing refers to whether consumers will readily accept that a brand truly supports a specific cause. Brands that fail to thoroughly examine how their sponsorship appears to the public can be accused of cause washing and self-orientation.

Awareness: Awareness refers to consumer understanding of a specific cause. Raising awareness is an effort to make more consumers aware that a social problem exists and ideally, making them motivated to help fix that problem.

Awareness-Raising Partners: Awareness-raising partners are organizations that may be unwilling or unable to fund a nonprofit with direct contributions. An awareness-raising partner might highlight the nonprofit on their social media channels, for example.


B-Corp/Benefit Corporation/Certified B-Corporation: B Corporations are a form of for-profit corporate entities that have a legal requirement to balance profit with purpose — usually related to environmental or social causes that the company values. You can learn more on the B Corporation website. Related: B Lab is the nonprofit parent organization for B Corporation certification. Learn more.

Brand Identity/Brand Personality: Brand identity is a concept that encompasses both the visual identity as well as the messaging that a company uses to guide brand perception with consumers. Many companies use cause marketing as a tool to align their brand identity with causes valued by both the company and their target customer base.

Brand Philanthropy: Brand philanthropy covers any type of charitable giving by for-profit companies such as cash donations, employee time, and other non-financial support.

Branded Partnership or Cause Partnership: Branded partnerships are collaborative efforts between multiple organizations including for-profit and nonprofit groups, to achieve a mutual goal. In cause marketing, this often includes a branded marketing campaign where a nonprofit is a beneficiary alongside the brand itself.

Buy One Get One, Buy One Give One, and One-for-One: Buy One Get One, often shortened to BOGO, is a concept where a consumer buys one product and gets another one free. Many cause marketing campaigns use a variation called Buy One Give One (also referred to as One for One), where a consumer buys one item and the company donates a similar item to someone in need. One of the more popular examples is TOMS shoes which donates a pair of shoes to a child in need each time a customer buys a pair. Learn more about the use of Buy One Give One in cause marketing. One for One is often used to describe business models built around Buy One Give One offers.


Campaign: A campaign is a general marketing term for a specific project ranging in duration from a few weeks to a few months focused on a single objective. Common examples might include annual fundraisers, or seasonal-specific campaigns such as #GivingTuesday or end-of-year tax deduction fundraising events.

Cause Alliance/Cause Alliance Campaign: A cause alliance is a partnership between multiple organizations to address a social, environmental, or economic issue. A cause alliance campaign is the combined marketing/outreach efforts conducted on behalf of the partnership.

10 Cause Marketing Terms You Need to Know

Cause Awareness Day: A cause awareness day is a day, usually observed annually, that is dedicated to raising awareness of a specific issue. Examples include World Water Day (March 22) and International Literacy Day (September 8). Some are officially declared by governmental institutions like those observed by the United Nations.

Cause Branding: Cause branding is an approach to cause marketing that seeks to create a longer term brand perception and alignment between a brand and a specific cause.

Cause Licensing: Licensing refers to a brand partnership that allows a for-profit brand to use a nonprofit logo and identity in the brand’s marketing. This can serve the purpose of raising awareness or money for a cause. In longer term licensing scenarios, it is common for the nonprofit to certify or otherwise “vet” the brand’s cause efforts.

Cause Marketing: Cause marketing is a form of corporate social responsibility where a marketing campaign that benefits a brand is tied to a specific social cause, often with financial or other support for that cause from the brand.

Cause Promotion: Cause promotion is a form of corporate social responsibility where a business initiates a marketing campaign urging potential customers and others in their audience to show their support for a cause. Typically, the business will choose a cause that matters to their target audience. See “win-win” below.

Cause Partnership: See Branded Partnership

Cause Sponsorship: Cause sponsorship is when a corporate partner’s involvement is promoted by the nonprofit. This promotion has brand or marketing value to the corporate partner. Example: A T-shirt given out at a nonprofit’s event that includes the corporate sponsor’s logo.

Cause Washing: Cause washing is a negative term describing cause marketing campaigns that lack authenticity or follow-through. For example, a manufacturer of bacon that created a cause marketing campaign to stop obesity would likely face ridicule from people pointing out that their product might contribute to obesity.

Commercial Co-Venture: A commercial co-venture is the legal or regulatory term for a cause marketing campaign. Local and national laws outline the guidelines for running such a campaign. The most important factor is transparency, making clear to consumers, employees, and other audiences exactly how the co-venture works.

Community Investment: Community investment is a form of investment in which the goal includes making a positive impact on a community—not just making profits. Community investment takes many forms, such as providing loans to neighbors or giving to improve the community in which a company’s employees or customers live and work.

Community Relations: Community relations is a company’s effort to understand⁠—and often support⁠—the particular concerns of the communities impacted by the company’s operations.

Consumer Activation: Consumer activation is the act of delivering messages to compel consumers to participate in supporting a cause. For example, they could be asked to vote for their favorite nonprofit, donate, or share a message on social media.

Consumer Activism: Consumer activism refers to efforts by members of the general public to influence a business’ operations, usually in reference to a political or social cause. Companies can drive consumer activism through cause marketing, which may help them to sell more products.

Corporate Citizenship: The use of the term corporate citizenship suggests that companies ought to behave responsibly within the communities they impact, and among both internal and external groups in their operations. Corporate citizenship efforts can take the form of donations to nonprofit organizations, volunteering, or internal mission statements that guide business ethics. See also corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.

Cause marketing glossary term: The use of the term corporate citizenship suggests that companies ought to behave responsibly within the communities they impact.

Corporate Community Partners: A corporate community partner is a nonprofit or community organization that a business supports through brand philanthropy, cause marketing, awareness-raising, or other efforts.

Corporate Contributions/Corporate Donations: Corporate contributions or corporate donations refer to money or tangible goods given by a for-profit business to a nonprofit organization.

Corporate Foundation Grants: Corporate foundation grants are gifts of money or tangible goods given to a nonprofit organization by a corporate foundation, and usually tied to an expectation the nonprofit will execute a specific project or effort. Learn more about the three types of grants here.

Corporate Fundraising: Corporate fundraising refers to efforts by a company or its employees to raise money for a nonprofit cause.

Corporate Philanthropy: Corporate philanthropy is an umbrella term used to refer to any monetary or in-kind donations given by businesses to nonprofits. See also corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility.

Corporate Identity: Corporate identity can be used to refer to the visual assets that represent a brand. However, considered more broadly, Corporate identity can refer to any representation of a brand that affects how people view that brand — from visual assets to social action.

Corporate Reputation: A corporate reputation refers to beliefs about an organization by customers, employees, and the general public.

Corporate Social Marketing: Corporate social marketing refers to efforts by a business to change the behavior of individuals within a community with the goal of improving the community as a whole.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is how businesses measure and regulate the social, economic, and environmental impact of their operations. Corporate social responsibility efforts may take the form of corporate philanthropy, triple bottom line accounting, or adherence to third-party standards regarding labor or environmental practices.

Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding is a method of raising money for a specific goal or project by generating small donations from many different people.


Donations in Kind: Donations in kind are gifts of goods or services from a business. Typically, these will be goods or services that are an aspect of the business’ operations such as an accounting firm donating accounting services, or a hardware store donating paint.


Embedded Generosity: Embedded generosity is the practice of bundling a charitable donation or effort into the purchase price of a product. For example, a dog food company may promote the fact that they donate $1 to animal shelters for every bag of dog food they sell.


Fundraising: Fundraising is the act of generating donations to a nonprofit organization.

Fundraising Partnership: Fundraising partnership is a broad term that refers to any form of collaboration between a nonprofit organization and a for-profit organization to generate donations for the nonprofit organization. Cause marketing is one form of a fundraising partnership.


Gift in Kind/GIK: See Donations in Kind.

Giving Tuesday or #GivingTuesday: Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the US, in November or December. Companies and nonprofits around the world make a special effort to encourage charitable donations on this day.

Giving Platform: A giving platform refers to a fundraising platform such as GlobalGiving that allows safe and easy donations.

Government Funding: Government funding refers to funds or grants provided by local or national governments to a specific cause or nonprofit.

Grassroots Marketing: Grassroots marketing refers to marketing efforts that encourage individuals to tell other people about a product or take collective action to support a cause. When done successfully, grassroots marketing programs reach a larger number of people than the organization could have reached by spending the same budget on a traditional advertising campaign.

Cause marketing glossary term: Grassroots marketing refers to marketing efforts that encourage individuals to tell other people about a product or cause.


Halo Effect: A halo effect describes the positive lift created by a campaign that affects other aspects of a business than the campaign intended. For example, a cause marketing campaign might be described as having a halo effect if it leads consumers to purchase more frequently from that business in the future, or report more positive impressions of that brand during market research.


In-Kind Sponsorship, Gift in Kind (GIK): In-kind sponsorship or in-kind gifts refer to any donations of goods or services, i.e. gifts other than cash. For example, a local business might offer free products as an in-kind donation that can be auctioned at an upcoming fundraiser. See also donations in kind.








Micro Donations: Micro donations refer to campaigns built around smaller donations, such as $2 or $10, that allow many donors to easily support a cause without the decision-making they might need to put into a larger donation.

Minimum Guarantee: A minimum guarantee is an amount that a brand commits to donating regardless of the overall performance of a cause marketing campaign. For example, a brand might commit a $10 donation per product sold during a cause marketing campaign with a minimum guaranteed donation of $100,000 and a “cap” or maximum donation of $300,000.

Mobile Giving: Mobile giving refers to fundraising efforts designed to make donations and participation via mobile phones easy, such as SMS or text message campaigns or giving via mobile-friendly websites.


Nonprofit: A nonprofit is an organization with a social, cultural, religious, or other charitable mission. Under US tax law, registered nonprofits are tax exempt and are eligible for tax deductible donations. Most charitable, religious, and educational organizations are considered 501(c)(3) nonprofits. U.K. charities may also register to be tax exempt, and U.K. guidelines require that organizations be set up “for the public benefit” to be considered for tax-exempt status and tax effective giving.


One for One: See Buy One Give One


Percentage of Sales Donation: A percentage of sales donation is a cause marketing tactic where a for-profit organization promises to donate a specified amount of sales of a product or service, usually within a certain time period, to a specific nonprofit organization.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: Peer-to-peer fundraising is a form of crowdfunding that encourages donors to raise funds from friends and family, usually using their own dedicated website landing pages that they can share via email and social media.

Cause marketing glossary term: Peer-to-peer fundraising is a form of crowdfunding that encourages donors to raise funds from friends and family or other sub-donors.

Personal Fundraising Page: A personal fundraising page is a website page that allows someone to solicit donations for a cause from friends and family. For example, a charity walk participant might share their personal fundraising page on social media and ask friends and family to donate money to the cause they are raising funds for during that walk or race.

Philanthropy: Philanthropy refers to any donations of time, money, and resources to social causes. It is often used to refer to larger donations from corporate donors, wealthy individuals, and other private parties.

Pinup: A pinup is a form of fundraising that allows donors to make a donation, usually at a local business, and in exchange hang a “pinup” on the wall with their name or the name of a loved one. An example is the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Shamrocks program, which could be purchased with a small donation and “pinned up” to the wall of the register area of a supermarket.

Proceeds Marketing: Proceeds marketing is when a business promises to direct a portion of the proceeds of sales during a specific time period, or of a specific product, to a nonprofit.

Product Donations: Product donations are a form of in-kind gift of products provided by a brand. An example might include a donation of jerseys from a sporting goods brand. See also in-kind sponsorship, gift in kind (GIK)

Product Proceeds Program: See Proceeds Marketing

Purpose Based Marketing/Purpose Driven Marketing: See Cause Marketing

Purpose Driven Organization: Purpose driven organizations is a term used to describe companies with a larger purpose than profit. Typically, this purpose is aligned with a specific social cause.






Shared Value: Shared value describes a social cause or other value that is shared by a brand and their customers.

Shopper Proceeds Program: See Proceed Marketing

Slacktivism: Slacktivism is a term used to describe supporting a cause with minimal effort, such as sharing a link on social media. Often used with the negative connotation that the individual is not supporting the cause in a meaningful way such as donating their time.

Social Return on Investment: Social return on investment is the measurable impact of an organization’s operations on categories like the environment, economy, and society. Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations can use social return on investment to deliver a holistic view of their operations.

Socially Responsible Business Practices: Socially responsible business practices are efforts by a for-profit organization to improve outcomes of its operations in relation to social, economic, or environmental factors.

Strategic Gifts-in-Kind: Strategic gifts-in-kind are donations of services or goods that advance a business’ goals, as well as being needed by a nonprofit. For example, donating basketball shoes to underserved youth may generate positive publicity for a shoe manufacturer or retailer.

Strategic Partnership: A strategic partnership is a partnership that advances the broad goals of both organizations. An example might be a toothpaste manufacturer that supports an organization promoting oral health.

Strategic Philanthropy: Strategic philanthropy refers to efforts by for-profits to align their charitable giving with their business goals. A company employing strategic philanthropy would not, for example, simply donate to the CEO’s favorite art museums, but would instead plan corporate giving around the eventual impact on business success.

Cause marketing glossary term: Strategic philanthropy refers to efforts by for-profits to align their charitable giving with their business goals.

Sustainability: Sustainability refers to whether an action compromises future environmental, social, or economic health. Every action taken by a business has an impact on the future. A business concerned with sustainability ensures the benefits of their actions are worthy of the impacts they will cause.

Sustainable Value: Sustainable value refers to the concept that successful brands must maintain strategies and practices that contribute to a healthy environment and society.


Third Party Online Giving Platform: A third party online giving platform is a service that collects and tracks donations on behalf of a nonprofit. With these services, nonprofits can focus on core efforts within their community, rather than managing complicated financial transactions and credit card technology.

Transactional Cause Marketing: Transactional cause marketing refers to cause marketing campaigns that fail to establish deep long-term relationships between participating nonprofits, companies, and donors. Transactional cause marketing campaigns are mostly one-off efforts that lack a strong tie-in between the cause and the donor.

Triple Bottom Line: Triple bottom line refers to a revolutionary method of business accounting where companies assess not only their financial performance but also the social and environmental impact of their operations. The three pillars of the triple bottom line are people, planet, and profits.






Win-Win or Win-Win-Win: Win-win is a term used to describe a transaction or partnership where two parties benefit from participating. A win-win-win scenario in cause marketing often refers to one where a brand, the brands’ customer, and a partner nonprofit all benefit from an offer or campaign.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Word-of-mouth marketing refers to consumers actively telling friends, family, and other audiences about a cause or product. Brands and nonprofits alike often seek to generate word-of-mouth awareness by letting consumers share campaigns or referral discounts with other people who may be interested. Cause marketing campaigns can be especially successful at generating word-of-mouth buzz.





See how GlobalGiving has supported cause marketing partnerships for brands like Pepsi, Nike, and Neutrogena.


Featured Photo: Help launch four early childhood development schools by Hope Africa Collective

Looking for something specific?

Find exactly what you're looking for in our Learn Library by searching for specific words or phrases related to the content you need.

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.