Last week, Williams Whittle was represented at the 15th annual Engage for Good conference in Chicago. Around 500 marketers, nonprofits, corporate officials and volunteers convened to learn about the latest trends in cause marketing. Williams Whittle had a booth to distribute information on our agency as well as providing graphic recording of the most important speeches. Our Associate Creative Director, Eva Day, was amazing in the way she can hear a talk and contemporaneously illustrate the key points the speaker was making.

As for the learning, I had three major takeaways:
1. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs in major companies is a given, the “price of admission”. It’s what they do to integrate giving back to the community in a meaningful way that counts.
2. More than ever before, nonprofits who want to partner with corporations have to vividly demonstrate brand alignment with the corporation. There has to be a profit motive for the company, not just writing checks in support.
3. Cause marketers and their partners are more sophisticated in creating programs, measuring results and generating funding than ever before.

UNICEF gave a presentation on how they integrated their brand into groups of school children and effectively co-opted these kids into being brand ambassadors for their counterparts in other nations who are living in poverty. UNICEF provides American kids with workout band type devices equipped with tracking technology that tells UNICEF the number of steps each kid takes on a daily basis. Each time a kid reaches the recommended number of steps of 12,000 in a day, UNICEF is alerted and makes a donation on behalf of the American child to a child living in poverty overseas. The program is supported by a corporate sponsor. The kids have gotten very competitive with each other in generating funding to their counterparts, all the while living a more active lifestyle. Everyone wins with this program.

“Nudging for Good: The Route to Successful Corporate Social Marketing” graphic recording by Eva Day, Associate Creative Director at Williams Whittle.

One session provided ample evidence of why and how nonprofits need to align themselves with a corporate sponsor’s brand. A panel comprised of Jet Blue, Arby’s Foundation, Whirlpool and Cracker Barrel Foundation was asked to judge three live pitches from nonprofits seeking a partnership with the brands. The brave nonprofits who volunteered were a national park organization, a winter coat provider and a cancer research organization. All three gave passionate pitches, and all three told vivid stories of how they affect people in real life. The trickiest part was how the causes positioned themselves as being in alignment with the corporate brands. The fact is that there has to be something in it from a business standpoint for the brands; it is not enough just to be good citizens.

“How to Find and Connect With the Right Partners” graphic recording by Eva Day, Associate Creative Director at Williams Whittle.

The National Park Foundation, perhaps, the strongest case in this vein. Their representative pointed out that national parks are a travel destination and that programs with an airline and a highway chain of restaurants made eminent sense. They even started brainstorming right then on tactics like couponing and map giveaways.

Overall, the Engage for Good conference is among the best I’ve attended in the nonprofit genre. The speakers are thoughtfully selected and the audience is mostly senior enough for excellent networking opportunities.

See the rest of our graphic recordings at