Questioning cause marketing? Here are three answers.

Are you frequently asked to consider a donation to a cause when you purchase a product? Or enticed to purchase a product because the brand supports a particular cause? You are not alone. 

The idea of connecting a cause to a brand for purposes of selling products to consumers is called "cause marketing," and it's been around for more than 40 years. And it's here to stay. Cause sponsorship increased nearly 5% between 2012 and 2013, and 3.4% between 2013 and 2014, according to the IEG Sponsorship Report. Cause marketing is American as burgers and fries.

The beginning of an expansion beyond cause marketing is happening because the philanthropic marketplace itself has changed, and best practices now freely encourage people to support the causes they care about, beyond the causes they are told to support--by brands or anyone else. Consumers--especially women--want more out of their philanthropic experience with the brands they love. Consumers want their favorite brands to care about them. And that includes helping consumers celebrate the good they are already doing, whether that's giving to charities, volunteering, serving on boards, recycling, attending community events, sharing with family and friends, or caring about health and wellness.

So what to do when you're hit with cause marketing? We've got three tips.

1. "No pressure."

Don't feel pressured to give to a cause you don't care about. Best practices in philanthropy have shown for over a decade that giving actually goes up when the charity marketplace helps people give to what they want to give to, without pressure to change favorite causes or add causes that simply are not of interest. The consumer products marketplace is finally catching on to the idea that authentic engagement in social impact is the process that works best to keep consumers happy when it comes to cause. 

2. Care about the brand that cares about you.

Keep an eye out for brands that understand authentic consumer engagement in social impact--brands that help you celebrate the good you are already doing. Savvy companies have figured out how to celebrate the good their employees are already doing, above and beyond the opportunities for community engagement offered by the company itself.

3. Shop, show and tell.

When you're with your kids, take advantage of the opportunity to share with them why you care about the causes you care about. In other words, tell your own story of giving so your children can begin to create their own stories about favorite causes and become savvier consumers in the process. For example, if you pick up a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and you are passionate the growing consumer movement for mandatory GMO labeling, tell your kids all about it. "We are buying this ice cream because it is good, and also because the brand believes what we believe about the right to know what’s in our food supply."

The bottom line? The bottom line is that it's your money. And it's your choice of charities. And that's a cause worth celebrating.

LifestyleLaura McKnight