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And the Winner Is: Pinterest for Cause Marketing

Posted by: Joe Waters on 1/30/2012

Cause Marketing | Pinterest

There are two great reasons to use the virtual pin board Pinterest for cause marketing:

  1. Pinterest is growing like crazy! Check out this graph if you don't believe me. 11 million users in less than a year. 
  2. Pinterest is attracting mainly women and moms, a key demographic for cause marketing.
The question is how to best use Pinterest for cause marketing?

Think Facebook Likes. To understand something new I always compare it to something with which I'm already familiar. A Pinterest cause marketing program would be a lot like a Facebook Likes promotion, which is an action-triggered donation program. When you like a nonprofit and/or for-profit's Facebook page the for-profit makes a donation. There are lots of examples of these online, but here are two from my blog.

A Pinterest promotion would work in much the same way. When you pin a picture to a board the company partner makes a donation to a cause. You could also reward other actions, such as repining a pin, commenting on a pin, sharing pins and boards on Facebook and Twitter, etc. (Wondering what the heck I'm talking about? Here's a primer on Pinterest for nonprofits.)

Like Facebook, there's no immediate way to connect pinning on Pinterest with donations from users. Help Attack! has a good giving option for Pinterest users but the service isn't widely used or known. Maybe we can change that!

Here's an option that connects cause marketing with a special event.

It comes from a Pinterest program I've been discussing with a friend, Julie Nations, executive director of a great nonprofit here in Boston called the Ellie Fund

Julie runs a very special event each year. The Ellie Fund is the official host of Boston's Oscar party in February. It's a great night of celebrating the Oscars and fundraising for the Ellie Fund.

Julie and I have been talking about a Pinterest cause marketing program to support the event. Here's how it would work:
  • Encourage people to create an I Love the Oscars board on Pinterest beginning a few weeks before the event. 
  • They can pin anything to these boards. Pictures of celebrities, the gowns and jewelry they wear, screenshots of the movies that are nominated, etc.  
  • Every time a picture is posted to a board, a corporate partner makes a donation to the Ellie Fund. We'll hand out prizes for the best boards, as I did with the Pinterest Causes I Love Contest a few weeks ago. We'll choose the winner a week before or even a day before the Oscar party. Heck, we could even choose a winner the night of the Oscar party and invite 300 party guests to choose their favorite boards on their smartphones. 
There's one big challenge to doing anything on Pinterest right now. It's in a beta, which means it's open to new users by invite only. Fortunately, if you've already gotten one of the those invites and signed up for Pinterest you can send invites to people that request them. Both Julie and I are both on Pinterest so we would just need to be vigilant about sending invites when people request them.

I did this with my Causes I Love Contest and it worked fine.

So, you may be thinking, when will this promotion start? I'm not sure it will because Julie and I are not 100% convinced we should do it. Our doubts reflect the reality of committing time and energy to a promotion that will raise a few bucks - perhaps a few thousand dollars depending on the commitment from a corporate partner - but ultimately wouldn't drive ticket sales to the event.

If it doesn't drive ticket sales for the event, and the dollars raised will be modest, why do it? Julie and I have two good reasons: 

  1. Like a Facebook Likes promotion, a cause marketing promotion on Pinterest - probably the first of its kind - positions the Ellie Fund as a social media leader. My experience is that credibility in new media goes a long way with potential partners that are on the lookout for these skills in nonprofit partners. 
  2. A Pinterest promotion gives the Ellie Fund something to talk about with prospective partners that is new, interesting and online. 2. A Pinterest promotion won't drive ticket sales but it will help create buzz about the event on a new platform that is as shiny, cool and appealing as an Oscar itself. I think the Ellie Fund needs to use Pinterest and other viral platforms to show people that the Oscars and the Ellie Fund, at least here in Boston, are one. Pinterest is one step in that direction.
I'll keep you abreast of what Julie and I decide.

That's my cause marketing idea for Pinterest. Let's hear yours. Are you taking a different approach? Do you agree that Pinterest wouldn't drive ticket sales for the event? What about the special aesthetic that Pinterest currently enjoys? Could a nonprofit leverage Pinterest's cool, hip reputation and have it rub off on them?

About For Momentum Guest Blogger Joe Waters

Joe Waters blogs on cause marketing at
He is the co-author of Cause Marketing for Dummies.
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    • Jan 31 2012, 2:53 PM Ehren
    • Thanks for mentioning us, Joe! I've been thinking about this as well. One idea I had after reading your post is that since when you pin something, it maintains a link to the page where it was pinned from, you should ask people to pin an image from the cause's site. In this example, maybe the Ellie Fund would find 10 great photos of pink dresses. Put each dress on a page with a follow-up action that benefits them (donating, or sharing to Facebook, or sharing a comment), so when people click through, they see the connection between the color, their branding, and their larger campaign. I'm also not sure if people can "share" a board (perhaps I don't know how to do this). So, it would be tougher to capture all the Elle Fund related activity in one feed (though not impossible, Yahoo Pipes is an amazing tool). Pinterest still shows "Pinned from" info, so you'd have an indication that it came from the cause. One thing I wanted to put out there is that while a brand can certainly make a donation through HelpAttack! very easily with a campaign like this, it's so much more powerful when they invite their followers to do the same. :-) I'm a Pinterest rookie so take all this with a grain of salt.

    • Feb 22 2012, 11:25 AM Trisha Stezzi
    • Great Pinterest infographic from 2/14/12 - Here's the link:

    • Apr 10 2012, 10:53 AM newfreeshipping
    • nice post,thanks for sharing!

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Cause Talk Radio Podcast


Episode 126: What Companies Want from a Nonprofit Partner
Recorded July 2015

Sharing insights from For Momentum's 2015 Corporate Partner Survey, Mollye Rhea talks to Megan Strand and Joe Waters about what companies really want from their nonprofit partners. 

In this episode of Cause Talk Radio, Mollye, Megan and Joe discuss:
  • How the most common question clients asked For Momentum became the basis for the survey.
  • What hunches did the survey legitimize? What answers surprised For Momentum?
  • How companies are shifting their interest in nonprofits from a sales focus to a genuine interest in social impact. 
  • How companies are looking for good nonprofit partners and are eager to work with more than one partner.
  • How brand alignment, awareness are driving factors for partnerships.
  • How the tremendous growth in the social good movement has given nonprofits an unprecedented and powerful opportunity with businesses.
  • Mollye's thoughts on what nonprofits need to do to engage companies.
  • The biggest mistakes nonprofits make when they call on a company.
Listen to Mollye Rhea on Cause Talk Radio Episode 126: What Companies Want from a Nonprofit Partner.

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