Fuqua Startup: Cause Marketing for Nonprofits & Businesses

This post was written by Justin Kersey, a second year Duke MBA student. Justin has just launched a new venture, Cake: a cause marketing and advertising platform where businesses can support good causes and nonprofits can raise money online. 

When I started my first year at Fuqua I had an idea for a marketing platform called Cake. At its core, Cake allows anyone to monetize their social networks and klout by carrying promotional advertising. Last fall, with a prototype already built, I began meeting with businesses and social commerce experts in the Triangle and introduced them to the Cake platform. I also consulted with Duke, NC State & UNC faculty researching social sharing and marketing. Both business experts and academics liked the concept, but quickly identified significant hurdles to a market ready product.

Based on this expert feedback, we pivoted the Cake concept to tightly focus on cause marketing, i.e. marketing partnerships between businesses and nonprofits. We saw an unmet need wherein nonprofits and good causes were struggling to raise money while business owners were trying to reach and engage new customers. American companies donate $20 billion each year but spend more than $300 billion on advertising. We wanted to help those businesses support good causes and win new customers at the same time!

Cake is the first easy to use, mass-market cause marketing and sponsorship platform. On Cake consumers can support the charities and causes they love for free simply by clicking.

As I was developing Cake, I decided to sign up for Fuqua on Board – a program in which Duke MBA students volunteer as nonvoting Board members of local nonprofits. Along with Dan Chow (another Duke MBA student), I was assigned to the Boy Scouts – Occoneechee Council. The Council has 25,000+ members in the Triangle area. Like most nonprofits, the Scouts are often raising money for programming. Traditionally the Scouts engage corporate donors with breakfasts, charity auctions and golf tournaments, none of which return a measurable marketing benefit for the donors. We recognized a clear opportunity to help the Boy Scouts develop a cause marketing campaign via Cake.

It was easy to decide on a worthy Scouts’ campaign to support through Cake. One of the most important rituals in Scouting is summer camp. The Occoneechee CounScreen Shot 2014-11-24 at 11.03.00 AMcil raises money so every Scout can go to camp, including low-income kids who otherwise could not afford it. Dan and I began organizing a Cake campaign to help send deserving Scouts to camp. Unlike other social fundraising which solicit direct donations, Cake allows a company to make a donation per click up to a fixed amount. So, if you visit the campaign site (https://www.cakecausemarketing.com/fundraisers/1) and click through to visit the sponsor’s website, they will donate to the Scouts’ campaign.

It’s free and easy for the consumer and a great way for companies to connect with Scouts and their parents. Companies such as Under Armour, Huntington Learning Center, Tijuana Flats and Adventure Landing are now able to support the Scouts and drive traffic, distribute coupons and discounts all at once. The Scout’s campaign can be easily shared via email and social media with the Boy Scout network of 25,000+ families and reshared with friends.

Cake, of course, tracks all sharing, page interactions, views and clicks and helps quantify the value the Boy Scouts create for their corporate sponsors. In addition, Cake eliminates risk. Sponsors donate nothing unless the Boy Scouts produce measurable results. Cake also includes a central marketplace that aligns businesses and nonprofits not only around causes of mutual interest but also around marketing opportunities. Cake allows nonprofits to finally monetize the marketing value of their membership and fan base. Now the Scout’s social network can carry advertising just like a newspaper or radio station.

With the Boy Scout Cake campaign going live, we hope to raise enough money to be able to send 25 low-income boys from the Raleigh-Durham area to camp, which will cost approximately $10,000. So far we have $8,000 pledged – we just need you to click to unlock the pledges from our sponsors!

The Cake platform has transformed into a compelling technology that empowers businesses and nonprofits to build mutually beneficial relationships that redirect money away from traditional media and toward good causes. Beyond the Boy Scouts, we are working on campaigns for other nonprofits including NPR, There Goes My Hero, Stop Hunger Now and the Alexandria Technology Center.