News and analysis
October 02, 2013

Most Consumers Who Buy Charity-Linked Products Want Results

Mel Evans/AP Images

Americans who buy products that raise money for charity are no longer just looking at the label to see how much they’d be giving to what cause. Instead, they’re increasingly searching for information on how much of a difference their past purchases have made to the charity, a new study finds.

While 54 percent of Americans have bought a product that benefited a charity in the past 12 months, up from 41 percent in 2010, only a fourth believe they have made a significant difference buying products that support causes, according to the online survey of 1,270 adults by Cone Communications, a company that helps charities and business shape marketing deals.

Consumers also don’t know whether the companies that are providing these products are doing that much good. The study says only 16 percent of those surveyed believe that companies have made a significant difference by selling charity-related products.

“Companies [and nonprofits] really need to do a better job of articulating the impact they’re having,” says Alison DaSilva, executive vice president for research and insights. “The flag has been raised.”

She says nonprofits need to be able to show consumers the programs that have benefited from the purchases and share that with companies. “Nonprofits, they are in the front lines,” Ms. DaSilva says. “They can create that content that companies can then distribute.”

Looking at the Label

The study says the top way people want to learn more about results is from the product’s packaging or label (21 percent); a story in the news media (16 percent); or a print, broadcast or online advertisement (16 percent).

Among the other findings:

• Eighty-nine percent of Americans were likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause if the price and quality were the same. That’s up from 80 percent in 2010, the last time the survey was conducted.

• Forty-two percent have boycotted a company’s products or services in the past year after learning it had behaved in a way deemed irresponsible.

• If given the opportunity, 79 percent of adults would donate to a charity supported by a company they trust.

• Economic development is the biggest issue Americans hope companies will try to solve through their charitable work, with 44 percent voting it as their top choice. Efforts to fight poverty and hunger were the next most popular cause, cited by 14 percent, followed by environmental causes, at 13 percent.

Send an e-mail to Raymund Flandez.