Mental health is an enormous issue facing our nation, but because it makes so many people feel so uncomfortable, very few companies publicly embrace it.
The alliance between Bloomingdale’s and the Child Mind Institute is the exception to the rule. For the third year running, the two organizations have teamed up to offer holiday items (celebrity-designed Radko ornaments and a plush bear). Their efforts have raised close to $400,000 and awareness for CMI and its work via print, online and in-store promotion.
The issue’s importance became all the more apparent after the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. In the wake of the tragedy, CMI produced public resource guides for helping children deal with grief and issued a call to end the widespread, speculative “amateur diagnosis” about the shooter’s mental condition.
“We’re probably the first to really stand behind the children’s mental health issue,” acknowledged Bloomingdale’s SVP of public relations Anne Keating. Asked why Bloomingdale’s adopted a start-up charity working on a cause so many other companies shy away from, Keating said “As a company, we have to look at issues that need to be brought to the forefront and take chances. When you look at the amazing work that CMI is doing, we didn’t consider it a risk to partner with a young nonprofit; it’s an important conversation to start.”
“Our cause-related marketing is a way for us to touch the charities our customers are involved in. From a business perspective, we hope people will visit our stores and support those causes as well as see what merchandise selection we have at Bloomingdale’s. The most important thing is to show your customer you care about important issues,” adds Keating.
Thus far, the response, particularly in online sales of the celebrity-designed ornaments (including Kelly Ripa, Matt Laura, Meryl Streep and Rachel Zoe) has been positive. “Our online customers have always reacted to anything associated with a philanthropic cause. For example, with very little messaging, 30,000 people sent an e-card online to unlock a donation to CMI.”
“Our partnership with Bloomingdale’s has really helped put us on the map,” said CMI President Dr. Harold Koplewicz. “The support we’ve received over the past three years from Bloomingdale’s has helped to legitimize our efforts in the community and get people talking about the importance of children’s mental health. When we start a conversation with a new potential corporate partner, hearing that Bloomingdale’s is behind us makes them sit up and take notice.”
“Are we the biggest fundraiser for any cause in the United States? No. But what we have brought is awareness,” adds Keating. “And I think that’s just as important as the funds that are raised. Once we choose something, we like to stick with it. It demonstrates to your customers and your employees that you are truly vested in the cause. These partnerships can help with employee morale, also. After the tragedies in Connecticut, we sent out a note to our employees with links to CMI resources in case their children had issues with going back to school. People reacted very positively.”
Kudos to Bloomingdale’s and other companies that effectively invest their dollars, marketing channels and reputations to align with important but “delicate” causes like mental health.