I love the idea of joining retail purchases with charitable donations. It provides shoppers with both the prompt and the opportunity to give, creating an easy donation transaction. Here are a few examples: you purchase (RED) coffee from Starbucks, and some of the proceeds are donated to the Global Fund; you check out at Kroger and are asked to donate $1 to a local charity; you buy a bottle of Merlot at onehopewine.com, and a few dollars is sent to the charity of your choice.

These examples have undoubtedly raised a great deal of funds for charity – (RED) alone has garnered over $170 MM since 2006. But does that mean that cause-related purchases are marketed as well as they could be? I don’t think so. The “make a purchase/make a donation” model is still relatively new, and sometimes a bit awkward. Here are three suggestions on how to improve it:

1. Add value, not price

As a business, if you’re going to donate 10% of a product’s sale price to charity, don’t just mark up the price by 10% and expect me to buy it. You’re not adding anything to the equation. Instead, add value in some other way. Tell me that because you donate half of your profits to charity, you can sell your product at a competitive price and give 10% to charity. Or offer a matching donation from a third-party, so shoppers feel like that their donated dollars go further. Be creative. Have some skin in the game. But don’t simply pass the buck to the customer.

2. Give me some credit

Hey, I just bought your product, and I supported a charity! But so what?! If you want customers to feel really good about what they’ve done, show them you appreciate it. Talk about the customers who’ve done the most to support causes on your Facebook or Twitter feed. Give customers who patronize your cause-related products discounts on future purchases, or special access to sale events. A ‘small thank’ you can go a long way.

3. Don’t overwhelm me

Are you asking customers to make a donation every time they interact with your business? Maybe I already made a donation earlier in the day, and I’m tapped out. So I might get a little annoyed if I feel like I’m getting shaken down each time I pick up a bag of groceries. If you ask me too often, or make me feel guilty if I decline, then I’ll just shop somewhere else. Make me feel good for giving, but not bad for saying no.

These are just three ideas – what other ways can cause-related retail be improved? What are some good examples of this being done well?