State Farm's "Cause An Effect" Campaign Offers 6 Lessons in Social Cause Marketing

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State Farm's "Cause An Effect" Campaign Offers 6 Lessons in Social Cause Marketing

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6 Social #CauseMarketing Lessons from @Statefarm's #CauseAnEffect Campaign via @CompaniesforGood #CSR

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Monday, June 4, 2012 - 2:00pm

CAMPAIGN: Cause Marketing Blog Posts


by Kate Olsen

State Farm recently joined the ranks of companies opening up their corporate philanthropy process to include input from social networks via a crowdsourced voting process.  The Cause An Effect campaign, which ran from February 29 through May 17, 2012, took a creative approach to grantmaking by asking communities across the nation to nominate deserving causes, thereby making the campaign relevant at both a local level and as a national cause platform.  I had the opportunity to interview members of the team behind the campaign, and am pleased to share some key insights from their first foray into social cause marketing here.

“The Cause An Effect campaign became an important way to expand State Farm’s existing corporate social responsibility work in a more visible way,” said Public Affairs Director Lori Manning.

About the Campaign

The Cause An Effect campaign is a youth-led, crowdsourced philanthropic initiative that relies on local, nonprofit organizations to create solutions to community issues identified by State Farm fans on Facebook.

From February 29 through March 20, individuals submitted more than 3,000 causes within the categories of education, safety and community development, far exceeding the goal of 500 submissions.  State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB), a group of 30 students charged with helping State Farm administer a $5 million service-learning initiative, then facilitated the selection of the top 100 finalists and worked with the State Farm Public Affairs department to match each cause with a local nonprofit that could implement the cause solution with grant funding.  From April 27 through May 17, State Farm’s Facebook community was encouraged to visit the Cause An Effect app and vote for their favorite Cause. The 40 Causes that received the most votes each received a $25,000 grant to help build safer, stronger, better educated communities.

The campaign received 1.2 million votes from 38,000 Facebook fans, again far exceeding the campaign goal of 65,000 votes.  State Farm will be tracking the grant progress over the next year and will report back on the impact achieved in the local communities.  You can learn more about the winning 40 causes on State Farm’s Facebook page here.

Outsider’s View of Success

Before getting the inside scoop on the Cause An Effect campaign, I identified 2 keys to success as to why the campaign hit the sweet spot for cause marketing through social media.

  1. Translate a core business practice into a meaningful digital engagement.  As a network of insurance agents, State Farm is a national brand that operates at a local community level.  In keeping with that approach, the Cause An Effect initiative not only rallied participation at a local level, but directly solicited ideas from individuals that would in turn benefit their communities.  This local approach unified under a branded national campaign aligns well with how State Farm conducts its day to day business.
  2. Respect nonprofit resources, including social capital.  Many voting contests require nonprofits to spend their social capital with their networks to rally supporters to participate and vote.  Often times, the chance of actually winning that elusive grant is scant.  State Farm mitigated that burden by narrowing the field of finalists to 100 and ensuring that a fair number of finalists would actually win a substantial grant of $25,000.  Involving the YAB in the finalist selection was a key component of the campaign since they are already trusted philanthropy advisors to State Farm and are invested in community impact. 

“We were a little concerned that only causes tied to big cities would get traction.  It was so nice to see local communities actively participating and smaller nonprofits among the finalists,” reflected Marketing Director Kelly Thul.

Insider’s View of Success

After having interviewed Lori Manning, Public Affairs Director, and Kelly Thul, Marketing Director, both members of the State Farm team behind the Cause An Effect campaign, I have another 4 keys to success to add to the list.

What are these additional keys to success? Read on, via