News & Updates


Wise Giving Wednesday: Cause Marketing Cautions

Jun 26, 2019

One popular way to raise funds is cause-related marketing:  a business sells its product(s) to consumers with the announcement that some of the purchase price will help a specified charity. While this promotional approach has been successfully carried out for decades, BBB Wise Giving Alliance continues to see problems taking place in either the advertising or the specifics of the arrangements. The following provides advice for the different parties involved.


If consumers are attracted to the promise that their purchase(s) can help a charity, BBB Wise Giving Alliance recommends that they look at the promotion carefully to see if it specifies the actual or anticipated amount of the purchase that will help the charity (for example, 5 cents for every box of cereal sold.) Not all advertisements are clear on this point and some use vague language such as “proceeds” or “profits” will go to a charity. This transparency is also required for charities to meet Standard 19 of the BBB Charity Standards. In addition, if there is some time limit on the campaign (i.e., during the month of October) or guaranteed minimum /or maximum amount that can be raised (i.e., up to $200,000), those points should also be included in the promotional disclosure.


Businesses, whether large or small, should remember that they need to get official permission to use the charity’s name before engaging in such advertising activity, especially in the use of any charity trademark or logo. This is best done in writing in some type of contract or agreement that is signed off by both parties. This good practice is applicable to a department store, restaurant, manufacturer or other business type that engages in cause-related marketing activities. Whether large or small, businesses should take these promotions as seriously as they address other types of advertising. And, of course, that also means the advertising content should be accurate, truthful and not misleading, both in whole and in part.


A charity should ensure that it receives drafts of the promotional references to its name to help ensure that advertising materials are accurate and include the recommended disclosures. It is best to incorporate this as a requirement in a written agreement with the business collaborating in the campaign. Also, the charity should make sure the agreement provides details as to when the charity will receive funds raised as a result of the promotion. We have heard of cases where the charity turns into a corporate bill collector, sending reminder notices to businesses that have not followed through on the amounts promised to the charity during the campaign.

Verifying Trust

Before entering into such arrangements both businesses and charities should check each other out to ensure that the other party is trustworthy. Is the business accredited by the BBB? Does the charity meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability?  Visit and for additional assistance.

Video of the Week

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video of Stephen Wells, Chief Executive Officer, Animal Legal Defense Fund (a BBB Accredited Charity) which seeks to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. Through its litigation program, the organization files lawsuits to stop the abuse of companion animals, and animals abused in industries including factory farming and the entertainment business. ALDF also works with law enforcement and prosecutors to seek maximum penalties for animal abusers.

Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO 
BBB Wise Giving Alliance