Most successful businesses can trace their roots to a similar origin story. The company founder identifies an unmet need or underserved market and comes up with a creative way to capitalize on it.
David Hessekiel’s eureka moment came in 2002 when he was consulting with a number of clients on cause marketing projects. “I had a heck of a time finding any useful information on cause marketing,” the founder and president of Rye, New York-based Cause Marketing Forum, Inc. (CMF) recalls. “I figured there had to be a community of people working at the intersection of purpose and profit that would appreciate easy access to examples of best practices, case studies, industry statistics, and the like.”
He figured right. Cause marketing, often described as “doing well by doing good,” has been growing steadily for years. Corporate cause sponsorship was an $816 million-a-year sector when Hessekiel launched CMF 14 years ago. It’s more than doubled since then, projected to hit $2 billion in 2016, and he has positioned his firm as the nexus of critical resources for business and nonprofit executives looking to create successful company/cause alliances. As the latest winner of T-Mobile’s Unleash Your Business contest, he’s excited about new opportunities to take his enterprise to the next level.
Hessekiel started with a clear vision of a straightforward business model. His plan was to use free online information offerings to draw prospects to CMF’s website and convert them over time into paying customers who attend the firm’s conferences and webinars, enter its awards programs, and become dues-paying members of CMF. He also sought to attract member and non-member sponsors of the organization’s programs.
When CMF held its first event, in 2003, its staff consisted of Hessekiel and one “very part-time” event coordinator. CMF remains a small but mighty virtual team of seven people collaborating on four brands: Cause Marketing Forum and Companies & Causes Canada, its two North American corporate citizenship units; and Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum and Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada, its two North American brands that help nonprofits produce more successful walks, rides, and other types of fundraising programs in which supporters ask their contacts to donate to a cause.
Every month, CMF produces numerous newsletters and podcasts as well as between one and three webinars which enable thousands of customers to tap into the brilliance of experts from around the world, Hessekiel says. The company’s Halo Awards competition draws more than 100 entries of corporate social initiatives each year, and its Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum compiles annual U.S. and Canada rankings of the 30 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs. “The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Top 30 has become an important benchmark for our industry. It has been cited by the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and many other media outlets,” he says.
“It’s essential for us to upgrade our use of technology to increase our efficiency, improve our level of customer service, and produce more engaging content and experiences,” Hessekiel explains.
Hessekiel plans to use the T-Mobile prize package of services and gear to improve operations, keep up with the growth of its communities, and develop better content. For example, CMF conferences attract hundreds of attendees, most of whom tend to arrive at the same time. That can result in long registration lines and make it difficult for team members to track check-ins in real time. “We are going to give each registration desk staffer a Samsung tablet linked to our attendee database,” he says. “As each person checks in, we’ll be able to access all of their details and note that they’ve been serviced. Being up to date on customer traffic will improve our customer service and post-event analysis.”
CMF live events present prime opportunities to capture case studies and other insights from attendees, but it has missed out on that to date because it lacked the right technology. Hessekiel plans to remedy that by equipping staff members with tablets that they will use to videotape interviews with conference attendees and speakers, providing a treasure trove of source material that can be used for future blog posts and online videos.
“As we approach our 15th year in business, we must never become complacent,” Hessekiel says. “The fields we cover are constantly changing, as are the needs of our customers. No two members of our team work in the same location, so it is critical that we have reliable communications systems at all times; they are the lifeblood of our business. Continuing to run the business efficiently depends on simplifying our processes by digitizing them. It’s my hope that access to this top-drawer equipment and service package from T-Mobile will help us take a quantum leap forward.”