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Easy Ways to Engage College Students By Giving Back

By collegemktgrp | December 8, 2021 | Brands/Advertisers

Most college students are part of Generation Z, a demographic that interacts with brands and advertisements in a way that’s wholly unique. 

Gen Z’s beliefs and interests influence their purchasing decisions unlike any previous generation. College students prefer to purchase from brands that support their beliefs and commitment to creating a better world.  

Gen Z wants to know that, when they buy from your brand, they aren’t just getting the best product at a great price. They want to know their purchase means something. The response to this growing desire among consumers is known as cause marketing. 

What is Cause Marketing? 

cause marketing campaign often refers to a partnership between a for-profit company and a charitable non-profit organization. Cause marketing can involve your brand pledging some percentage of proceeds from sales to a charity or cause. 

The result is a win-win-win: college students get to support something they care about while buying something they want. The non-profit raises funds toward their cause, and your brand increases sales while communicating its values to customers. 

Your brand can also use a cause-related marketing campaign to communicate to customers that it supports a certain cause or issue without directly raising money or asking people to use their product. You can also offer a limited-time service, or volunteer at or sponsor a charitable event.  

Why Should You Care About Cause Marketing? 

Gen Z accounts for almost 1/4 of the U.S. population. Together, college students hold more than $143 billion in spending power, and a significant influence on household spending.  

Many college students’ perceptions of brands improves once they discover that the brand supports a social cause. Through cause marketing, your brand has the chance to strengthen your bond with college students.  

Why Do College Students Support Brands That Give Back or Support a Cause? 

According to Gen Z, companies should offer more than producing and selling products. A recent study found that 2/3 of respected brands among college students supported a social cause. Another 58% said brands supporting charity organizations or a social cause compelled them to purchase their products or services.  

Gen Z has faith in businesses who do more than make a sale. They want to be sure that they’re supporting brands working towards solving global challenges like social, economic, and ecological injustices.  

And considering Gen Z makes up the largest demographic in U.S. history, brands that don’t resonate with their needs and social values won’t measure up to the competition. 

Cause Marketing Strategies for Brands 

There are several ways your brand can execute a cause marketing campaign: 

Partner with Charitable Organizations That Share Your Beliefs 

  • Select a nonprofit charity organization that supports your brand values and mission — one that your target audience interacts with.

Donate to Causes You’re Passionate About

  • This is the only way to prove to college students that you’re true to your word. 
  • Support a worthwhile cause that gets you excited to make a difference in your community.

Include a Donation Call to Action at Checkout

  • You can compel your clients to make a donation while making purchases in support of charitable causes.
  • Collecting donations for various charity groups boosts brand awareness — more customers will come to the platform to support the cause, especially if it’s something they’re already interested in. 

Maximizing Your Cause Marketing Campaign for College Students 

Gen Z college students expect brands to be accountable and transparent with their cause marketing efforts. Designing the best cause marketing campaign requires choosing causes that are authentic to your brand and that resonate with your target audience.

1. Find a Mission That College Students Believe In 

When deciding the best way to give back to the community, select a nonprofit group or event that matches college students’ values. This could mean environmental protection groups, human rights groups, and other socially conscious brands that empower communities and bring about real change.  

The charitable group you choose should be authentic and offer valuable services that college students will want to support.

2. Find Alignment With Your Brand 

While it’s great to give money to charitable groups, this might not be the best move for your brand — or even for the organization itself. Speak to your top nonprofit organizations to learn about their focus and needs to make sure a partnership is a good fit. 

Other than money, you can give your workers paid volunteer hours so they can help out with specific activities and events. You can also donate products that could be helpful to the organization.  

The most important thing is to pursue a social cause that suits your brand values and target audience. If it doesn’t, it won’t inspire your target consumers to contribute, leading to a lackluster campaign. 

If you’re not sure what kinds of causes your audience supports, poll them through social media or email campaigns. You can even offer a small incentive for their time and input, like 10% off or free shipping.

3. Make Your Cause Marketing Campaign Effective 

Now that you’ve chosen a cause that aligns with your brand’s mission and Gen Z’s interests, here are additional tips to ensure your cause marketing campaign draws in the attention of Gen Z:  

  • Be transparent about your gift-giving or charitable contributions. 
  • Avoid exaggerating your contribution to social development.
  • Verify all promotion information on your website, including online reviews.
  • Support trusted charitable groups. 

The Importance Digital Marketing in 2022 

Finding practical ways to give back can help your brand build affinity and trust with college students.

At College Marketing Group, we can help connect your brand with college students and their parents year-round. From email marketing to product sampling campaigns and more, we help brands maximize their conversions with college students.

Learn more about our strategies for college student brands and advertisers >

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