Should You Buy that Charity Affiliated Product?

Should You Buy that Charity Affiliated Product? Header Image

It isn't just pink ribbon packaging showing up on shelves during Breast Cancer Awareness Month anymore. Now the ribbons are apparent year-round. Moreover, it isn't just pink! There are seemingly endless opportunities to purchase products and services that claim to benefit charity.

According to a 2019 article by GlobalGiving:

79% of Americans say they feel a deeper personal connection to companies with values similar to their own. And, 72% of U.S. consumers have donated to charity at the register. However, 64% of global consumers will choose, switch, avoid, or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about. So, this can be either beneficial to causes and the brands aligned with them or, conversely, detrimental if partnerships aren't carefully chosen.

So, how do you evaluate which cause-related marketing efforts are worth purchasing? Start by asking these questions:

  • Is the relationship between the for-profit and charity authentic?  
    Are there any perceived or real conflicts between the charity’s mission and the company’s values and products/services? Is there a strategic partnership between the firm and the charity or did the company just color wash its product in pink (or another charitable cause color scheme) as an advertising endeavor without any thoughtful consideration of the charity/cause involved?
  • Is the packaging clear / transparent?
    In examining the product’s packaging, avoid vague packaging and make sure you can easily discern:
    • Charity: What is the specific charity involved in the partnership?
    • Value: How much of your purchase benefits the charity? Is there a minimum or a cap on the firm’s contribution?
    • Timing: When does the offer end?
  • Is this product/service something you really need?
    Is the product/service something you would buy even without the charitable affiliation?
  • How does the product/service stack up to competitors' offerings?
     Is the quality and pricing of the product as good as or better than other similar products?
  • Is the charity affiliated with the product high-performing and one that matches your philanthropic goals?
    Make sure you know about the charity on the receiving end of your purchase by checking the charity’s:
    • Programs & Services:  Confirm, don't just assume, that the charity offers the programs and services that you want to support. For example, just because a charity has the term Breast Cancer in its name, doesn't mean it is focused on finding a cure. It might be focused on research, advocacy, awareness or funding patient services. So, if you want to fund a cure, you'll need to look for charities that are mostly focused on that effort and then see which for-profit affiliations that charity has established. 
    • Financial Health: Is it financially efficient and sustainable?
    • Accountability & Transparency: Does it have a strong Board of Directors providing proper oversight? Does disclose its financial documents on its website? Does it have the proper policies and procedures in place to prevent unethical behavior?

You can find information on all of these items on the Charity Navigator website. You can also look at the charity’s website or call them directly for further details.

Whether you buy the product or not, remember that this type of philanthropy should be seen as a bonus and never a substitute for making a contribution directly to a well-vetted charity.