Brands looking to build a cause-marketing stance should proceed with caution, however. Tying yourself to a cause involves more than swinging a hammer for a week with Habitat for Humanity or echoing the words of Bono as he brings awareness to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. You have to look within your organization to find out what your people care about and which opportunities fit best in relation to your industry. After all, what good is your involvement unless you actually have the power to affect it in a meaningful way?
Though certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some organizations you may not have heard of that involve youth and Gen Y and are doing some very remarkable things that you could be supporting:
The Campus Kitchens Project This group partners with high schools, colleges, and universities to share on-campus kitchen space, recover food from cafeterias, and engage students as volunteers who prepare and deliver meals to the community to those who need it most. This charity's kitchens are in 20 schools around the country -- big schools and small schools, rural and urban, colleges and high schools. Its goal is to have many Campus Kitchens around the country feeding the hungry and the needy.
National Runaway Switchboard This organization says between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away per year. Many are running from abusive and destructive home environments. The mission of this group is to help keep America's runaway and at-risk youth safe and off the streets. The 1-800-RUNAWAY hotline handles an astounding 100,000 calls each year and provides solution-focused interventions, confidential and caring support, and 24-hour help for at-risk youth and their families.
National Students of AMF This organization supports students of deceased or "ailing mothers, fathers," or loved ones. This organization, with a network of 24 campus chapters, is the only one dedicated to supporting college students coping with the terminal illness or death of a loved one and empowering all college students to help each other deal with the grief and challenges associated with fighting a terminal illness.
National Student Partnerships (Now called LIFT) This organization is dedicated to combating poverty throughout U.S. communities by getting college students involved. Trained student advocates work side by side with low-income people in the community to address immediate daily needs unique to their situation and chart a sustainable path out of poverty. Check out the organization's website for a great video that explains who they are and where they are heading.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students? AFSP is the leading national organization dedicated exclusively to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy. AFSP has developed a film called "The Truth about Suicide: Real Stories of Depression in College" as a commitment to support colleges and universities in implementing suicide prevention services on campus. The film aims to present a recognizable picture of depression and other problems associated with suicide among college students and other young adults.
UniversalGiving UniversalGiving helps college students travel over their spring break or summer vacation to more than 70 countries across the world to volunteer. Students and student groups can choose from 290 different customized opportunities for giving, such as Education & Literacy or Health & Human Services. This program puts resources in places where there is a tremendous need while providing college kids with valuable hands-on experience helping others, building self-confidence and increasing awareness of humanitarian needs across the globe.