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A.G. Schneiderman Issues Best Practices For Breast Cancer “Pink Ribbon” Campaigns

In Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Nation’s Two Largest Breast Cancer Charities Sign-On To Protect Consumers And Charities

Schneiderman: We Applaud These Two Charities For Leading The Way Toward Greater Transparency

NEW YORK – In National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued best practices to promote transparency in charitable “cause marketing” campaigns, a growing billion-dollar-a-year industry in which companies advertise that the sale or use of a product will result in a charitable contribution. The best practices follow a year-long review of “pink ribbon” and similar campaigns of nearly 150 companies. While these campaigns have resulted in substantial donations, the Attorney General's review found that consumers often do not have sufficient information to understand how their purchases will benefit charity.

“National Breast Cancer Awareness Month continues to increase our understanding of breast cancer and raise funds for the charities fighting it. Consumers who intend to support this worthy cause deserve to know that their purchases do the good promised by the pink ribbon campaigns,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “These best practices, agreed to by the nation’s largest breast cancer charities, will help ensure that cause marketing campaigns provide the benefit that’s expected, and that consumers, charities, and above all, the women and families affected by this devastating disease are protected.”

Attorney General Schneiderman's Five Best Practices for Transparent Cause Marketing will protect consumers and charities by having companies clearly and prominently disclose key information about each campaign, including the specific amount that will be donated to charity from each purchase. Companies using ribbons and similar symbols on products must make clear to consumers if a purchase will trigger a donation, or if the symbols are used merely for awareness of a cause. The best practices also ensure more transparency in social media campaigns, in which companies promise donations if consumers agree to “like” or “follow” them or their products.

The nation's two largest breast cancer charities, Susan G. Komen For The Cure and Breast Cancer Research Foundation, are showing their commitment to transparency by adopting the best practices.

“Our office commends Susan G. Komen For The Cure and Breast Cancer Research Foundation for signing onto these best practices, and leading the industry to greater transparency and accountability,” added Attorney General Schneiderman. “These guidelines will bolster public confidence in cause marketing and hopefully will result in more money going to fighting this horrible disease.”

“We congratulate Attorney General Schneiderman for issuing the Best Practices, which will promote transparency in cause marketing,” said H. Art Taylor, President and CEO, BBB Wise Giving Alliance. "With companies adopting these Best Practices and following the BBB's Standards for Charity Accountability, consumers will now have the disclosures they need to make informed purchases."   

The Best Practices are designed to increase the quality and consistency of disclosure to consumers, requiring participating companies to:

Clearly Describe the Promotion

Consumers should be able to easily understand before purchasing a product key terms such as: the name of the charity; the specific dollar amount per purchase that will go to charity; any caps on the donation; whether any consumer action is required to trigger a donation; and the start and end dates of the campaign. The Best Practices also encourage companies to use a “Donation Information Label,” akin to a nutrition label, that will include this information in a clear and uniform format.

Allow Consumers to Easily Determine Donation Amount
In marketing their products, companies should use a fixed dollar amount - such as 50 cents for every purchase - rather than generic phrases like "a portion of proceeds" will go to charity.

Be Transparent About What Is Not Apparent
Companies should disclose what might not be obvious to consumers, including if there are contractual limits on the campaigns, if charitable contributions will not be made in cash, or if a fixed amount has been promised to charity regardless of the number of products sold.

Ensure Transparency in Social Media
Companies conducting cause marketing through social media should be equally transparent as in traditional campaigns, and clearly and prominently disclose key terms in on-line marketing.

Tell the Public How Much Was Raised
At the conclusion of each campaign, the website should clearly disclose the amount of the charitable donation generated.

The Attorney General's Best Practices, as well as other guidance and tips for charities and consumers, are available at http://www.charitiesnys.com/cause_marketing.jsp?. A copy of the Best Practices is also below.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Claire Evans and Karin Kunstler Goldman and Policy Analyst Liam Arbetman of the Charities Bureau, under the supervision of Charities Bureau Chief Jason Lilien and Executive Deputy Attorney General for the Social Justice Janet Sabel.

Five Best Practices for Transparent Cause Marketing
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
Charities Bureau

Across the United States companies generously support charities by promising donations from the sale of products or the use of services. These cause marketing campaigns have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in donations for charities, demonstrating that American business can do well by doing good. It is important, though, that consumers properly understand how their purchase or use of a product or service will benefit a charity. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has developed these Best Practices to promote transparency in cause marketing and help ensure that consumers are properly informed and that charities receive what they have been promised.

1.  Clearly Describe the Promotion

Consumers should be able to easily understand before purchasing a product or using a service how doing so will benefit a charity. Advertisements, websites and product packaging used in the cause marketing campaign should clearly and prominently disclose:
  • The name of any charity receiving a donation, as well as the mission of the organization if it is not readily apparent by the name
  •  The benefit the charity will receive from the purchase of a product or use of a service
  •  Any flat donation, any minimum amount guaranteed to the charity, or any maximum amount or other cap on the donation
  •  Any consumer action required in order for the donation to be made and any other restrictions on the donation
  •  The start and end dates of the campaign
These key details should be displayed together in a clear and prominent format and size, and in close proximity to, the text used in marketing the promotion. Disclosing information separate from the principal marketing of the campaign does not promote transparency or allow consumers to make informed decisions at the point of purchase or use.

To provide maximum transparency, consider using a “donation information” label on products or websites used in the promotion:

DONATION INFORMATION

 Name of Charity  ABC Cancer
 Donation Amount  10 cents Per Purchase
 Limitations on Donation  $500,000 Maximum Donation
 Dates of Promotion 10/1/12 through 12/31/12
 More Information  www.product.com
 
 

2. Allow Consumers to Easily Determine Donation Amount

Vague terms like “profits” or “proceeds” are meaningless to consumers and prevent them from knowing how their purchase or use of a product or service will benefit a charity. Using and disclosing a fixed dollar amount - such as 50 cents for every purchase - in advertisements, marketing and product packaging will allow consumers to easily calculate their charitable donation. If it is not practicable to use a fixed dollar amount per item, use a fixed percentage of the retail purchase price.

3.  Be Transparent About What Is Not Apparent

A company's or charity's brand is its most valuable asset. Nothing can damage the reputation of that brand more than when consumers or donors believe they have been snookered. To maintain public trust and confidence, err on the side of caution, and disclose what might not be apparent:
  • If a flat donation has been promised or paid to a charity, regardless of a consumer's purchase or use of a product or service, be clear that consumer action will not result in a contribution to the charity
  • If all or part of a donation to a charity is an in-kind contribution and not monetary, disclose the nature and amount of the in-kind contribution
  •  If a ribbon, color, logo or other indicia commonly associated with a charitable cause is used in a cause marketing campaign, clearly and prominently disclose whether the purchase of a product or use of a service will trigger a charitable donation
  •  If a purchase triggers a donation, but there is a cap on the amount to be donated to charity, do not saturate the market with products; limit the number of units distributed to a quantity that is reasonably expected to produce the maximum donation. On the other hand, if there is a minimum donation guaranteed, stock the shelves; ensure that enough products are distributed for sale so that the minimum amount can be sufficiently exceeded.
4. Ensure Transparency in Social Media

Increasingly, companies are partnering with charities through social media sites to promote their products and raise money for charities. Typically, companies will provide a donation if a Facebook user "likes" a company, or a Twitter user agrees to "follow" a company, or a Google+ user agrees to "+1" the company.

Companies and charities should be no less vigilant about transparency in social media cause marketing campaigns than they are in traditional product-based campaigns. Following the best practices described above, the terms of the social media campaign should be clearly and prominently disclosed as part of the campaign's on-line marketing, including the amount that will be donated to charity per action, the name of the charity that is the beneficiary of the campaign, the dates of the campaign, and if there is a minimum or maximum amount to be donated.

Companies should also have a system in place to track donations in real-time for the duration of the campaign, to make transparent to users the progress of the campaign. When the campaign ends, it should either be discontinued entirely, or it should be clear that any subsequent actions will not result in a donation to a charity.

5. Tell the Public How Much Was Raised

To further transparency, companies and charities should maintain on their websites key information about all active and recently closed cause marketing campaigns. At the conclusion of each campaign, the website should clearly disclose the amount of the charitable donation each campaign generated. Doing so will allow companies not only to showcase their generosity, but also to demonstrate their accountability to the public.

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