Cause Marketing: A Trustee’s View

The Challenges Faced to 2016

by Ethar Alali

UK Business Circle member Jay Virdee, of and is the network’s veritable queen of charitable causes. Last year her companies took a stand against bullying in all its forms during #antibullyingweek, an extremely important topic, and has started 2016 in much the same way by supporting children to raise literacy and deal with difficult news by starting the #SadBookChallenge. Sending 1 book to 1 local school. Sad Book is written by that absolute class act of an author, Michael Rosen, who many of us, myself included, grew up watching and listening to in school as well as reading his books. If you’re not already familiar with #SadBookChallenge, take a look at

This raised the question of cause marketing this morning, the collaboration of private and 3rd sector organisations work together for mutual benefit, by promoting a particular cause.

I’ve done quite a bit of this for various reasons (used to be a charity trustee myself). As well as sponsoring charity events, my company and I personally directly took on two major causes in the last three years, on top of two trusteeships (which had their own marketing challenges). One of them in the area of literacy in the form of support for Burnage Library and Information Hub. You can follow our team’s struggles through the initial campaign all those years ago online.


A recent example showed this effect in all it’s ugliness. In the charity world there was a huge backlash against ‘chuggers’. The cold calling or street ‘accosting’ members working on behalf of charities to collect funds and bank account details. The objections were likely by people who did not understand the difficulties charities face and of course, never ran one, though I agree, the methods were a bit intrusive. Those structures were private sector and charity partnerships, with the private sector linking up to provide the call centre staff and bodies on the street, so fit well within the definition of cause marketing. However, as we saw from the high profile way that backlash spread, and the negative publicity it caused, people got offended by it. Even more so than cold calling by the purely private sector and PPI.

The Data

The reality is that after 2008, charities are really struggling for money. With local authorities and government grants previously used dropping by more than 80% between 2009 and 2011 and never recovering, charities who relied on such grants or contracts had to find alternate ways to make the money needed to deliver their crucial services, or close altogether, which happened a lot!

Image for post
Image for post

This meant charities had to find other ways of raising the necessary funds and being creative with how they did it. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge sensation in 2014 showed how valuable the world of social media could be, with minor collaborations with many many organisations helping to fuel the charge.

Similarly, chugging and cold calling were two such attempts to bridge the gap and we failed as a society to understand it and be receptive to it. This isn’t new though, as even the ice bucket challenge had it’s hostile, public detractors who obviously didn’t understand anything about how charities work. I admit to taking them to task back then too.

The Benefits

This provides several benefits all round:

  • You give that tax money directly to charities, instead of the tax man
  • Charities get it faster than otherwise going through the government to get at it, thereby allowing them to receive and spend it faster on their cause
  • The government doesn’t have to deal with that paperwork on top of the Gift Aid paperwork, which even on the individual’s SATR level is a first class pain in the neck

This all adds to the proverbial ‘feel good factor’ you get by giving to charity, which frankly, isn’t appreciated by most and if you’ve been doing it as long as I have, loses its lustre over time in any event.

In summary, charitable support is not only a good thing for society, despite it’s badly marketed or challenging process, it’s good for business as a whole. What change are you going to make today?

Ethar Alali (@EtharUK) is CxO and Chief EA at Axelisys, specialising in providing innovative agile enterprise advice to blue-chips, inter-governmental organisations and SMEs. Formed in 2011, Axelisys works with some of the biggest household names in the UK and across the world. Ethar himself is a lifelong programmer, still faithfully carrying around the BBC Master Compact 128 that made him the man he is today

Written by

EA, Stats, Math & Code into a fizz of a biz or two. Founder: Automedi & Axelisys. Proud Manc. Citizen of the World. I’ve been busy

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store