Do you dream of helping others when you 'make it big'? Do you imagine all of the good that you can do once you have no money woes whatsoever? I think this quality is a universal character trait for entrepreneurs. It's one of the things that motivate and keep our imaginations happy. But do we really have to wait until we've hit the jackpot to give back? Nope. Not according to fashion designer, Julia Fiske we don't.

Julia spoke at Tory Johnson's recent Chicago Spark and Hustle event and I was taken with her passion, creativity and the power of her message.  Her company, Save the Ta-tas®, donates at least 25% of their proceeds to support the fight against breast cancer. This money goes directly to the cause; Save the Ta-tas® is currently providing salary support for breast cancer researchers. In addition to succeeding in that rather aggressive goal, Julia's company has donated a much needed piece of medical equipment to Northwestern University. All of this is achieved through the sale of Julia's original apparel and accessory designs targeted at raising breast cancer awareness. As a start up in 2004, Julia chose to leverage her brand with cause marketing and profits are soaring.

So what exactly is cause marketing? In 1983 American Express coined the term 'cause-related marketing' (CRM) when they launched a marketing campaign for the Statue of Liberty Restoration project. The company donated a penny toward restoring the Statue of Liberty each time a cardholder charged an item. In a mere four months, more than $2 million was raised for the project.

But you don't have to be an American Express to launch a successful cause related marketing campaign. Imagine a mutually beneficial collaboration between your company and your favorite nonprofit organization. The money you donate creates social value, increases visibility for both companies, and generates revenue for both companies. Of course, your non-profit partner and your brand must demonstrate synergy with an organic integration between your message and what they do. Your audience needs to know that you are serious and committed to the cause and the connectedness must be apparent and make sense to your customer.  

If done well, your partnership will increase your brand loyalty and sales, garner positive press coverage and differentiate you from the competition.  In fact, according to a Cone Cause Evolution Study, a whopping 79% of Americans say they would be likely to switch from one brand to another, when price and quality are about equal and if the other brand is associated with a good cause. But don't discount the fact that they will drop you like a hot potato if consumers sense insincerity or greed behind your cause related marketing efforts. This approach is not for you if you don't have a passion for your cause.

Where to begin? It's ok to start small. Partner with a local charity and work on a small campaign. If you are already serious about a larger cause and prepared to explore this new world, begin by contacting the development department at the charity you are considering. Remember, they are looking a solid ROI just as you are, so be prepared to give them information on your platform, target audience and level of visibility. Make sure that the organization can provide you with solid stats on your ROI too. This is not meant to be a one-time marketing boost, it's a partnership to be nurtured and cultivated like any good business partnership.

Do your research on the law and with your accountant as well. As with any good plan you must cover all your bases and understand the big picture before leaping onto the canvas.