Janine Jacques questions the role corporate marketing plays in philanthropy.

Janine Jacques questions the role social media marketing plays in corporate philanthropy.

We are a nonprofit, NOT an advertising platform for Big Business – By Janine Jacques

How can a $500 donation to a nonprofit be wrong?

Toyota of Braintree began a recent campaign to donate $500 to a nonprofit, but there was a catch. Only ONE of the 36 nominated nonprofits that generates the most votes on social media will be awarded $500. Nothing is award to the other 35 nonprofits.

Seems like a generous offer. Right? Well, let’s look closer. 

In the “Cause Marketing” course at New England College of Business students learn how business aligns with nonprofits to create a symbiotic relationship. For example, Freedom Communications gives the Equine Rescue Network a $25 donation for every ERN follower that upgrades their phone.

Another example is JEEP’s S.A.F.E. Return fund that provides aid to those who serve this county, veterans and their families. Jeep has given over $1 million in donations and vehicles to the USO. And in exchange, Jeep promotes their commitment through media like the Super Bowl which makes people more likely to purchase a Jeep.

….And then there is the Toyota campaign.

In exchange for nothing, 35 nonprofits send their followers over to click on the Toyota of Braintree page to “VOTE” for their nonprofit. What these voters don’t realize is that they are now being tracked by a “Facebook Pixel” which will then begin to serve Toyota Ads to them. Some marketers call this “Retargetting” others “Remarketing” in this case, I personally call it smarmy.

Therefore, in exchange for NOTHING , Toyota can promote themselves to 35 out of the 36 nonprofit follower base with self-promoting sales ads AND in exchange for $500, one lucky winner will receive a $500 charitable donation from Toyota (which BTW is 100% tax write-off for the dealership). Obviously someone at this small Toyota dealership did the math and figured out that they could get more impressions and reach new audiences by taking advantage of hardworking and respected nonprofits. Therefore, rather than spend $500 on social media advertising (Boost) and reach 24,000-62,000 people on social media, they ran a contest campaign which gives them visibility to the loyal followers of 36 nonprofits.

For example, the Equine Rescue Network has over 228,000 followers who now mistakenly believe that that Toyota of Braintree is a good and charitable dealership helping charitable causes. When in fact, they are just getting free advertising.

I am the founder of the Equine Rescue Network (ERN). I have spent 8 years working daily not only to save horses, donkeys and mules from slaughter, but also to cultivate relationships with our followers. I have built ERN as brand that is recognized as a trusted resource in the horse community. ERN is committed to transparency, ethical conduct and protects the integrity of the ERN brand. ERN is a nonprofit, not a paid advertising platform for business like Toyota. Our mission is to save horses, NOT SELL CARS.

Getting acquainted with a scared donkey.

For those interested in a donkey but worried because they appear scared and unfriendly. Its because they have been through A LOT and donkeys are sensitive animals. Here is a quick video that shows how easy it is to make friends with a donkey.

Posted by ERN Homes Needed on Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Actually, our policy is not to any sell products or endorse any business. However, Toyota has somehow circumvented this policy and used our logo to promote the Toyota brand through social media posts. Nonprofits loose. Toyota wins. There is another element to consider in this losing equation. For 35 of the 36 nonprofits, their followers have taken the time to vote and acted in a way they believed benefited the cause. Yet, their good faith gesture did NOT benefit the cause they support in any way. Therefore, the next time they are asked to contribute (volunteer or donate), they may feel that they already supported by the act of voting and may not be willing to do more (volunteer or donate).

Running a sustainable nonprofit is challenging. Every donor and every donation is critical to fulfilling our mission; and our missions are critical to the well-being of those we serve. As nonprofits, we need to only enter into relationships with businesses who are aligned with our mission and help us serve the needs of our communities – and stay clear of those businesses who just want free advertising and instant access to our followers or mailing lists.
As a digital marketing expert, I would recommend Toyota pick one of the 36 nonprofits and offered a $500 donation (grant). Better yet, select the nonprofit with the largest following on social media, offer them a $5000 discount on a Toyota vehicle, then plastered “SPONSORED BY TOYOTA” all over the car. This way they can leverage both on and offline advertising opportunities while being equally beneficial for both nonprofit and business.

Janine Jacques
10 High Street
Boston, MA 02115
[email protected]

Janine Jacques had over 15 years of industry experience and was a senior technical director before she decided to pursue a Ph.D and a career in education.  In education, she was a member of the faculty at the University of New Hampshire and Mount Ida College where she was awarded tenure in 2013.  Her expertise in technology and interest in online pedagogies inspired her to research new areas of education.  In 2014, she resigned from her tenured faculty position in order to pursue opportunities at New England College of Business.  Dr. Jacques is currently the Program Chair of Bachelors of Science in Digital Marketing at NECB.

Janine Jacques has applied her expertise in technology and digital marketing to help nonprofit organizations.  She is the founder of the Equine Rescue Network and the Chairman of the Board for the Service Dog Project.  She generously offers her time and expertise to many nonprofits to help build social enterprises that have great impact in the world.