Cause Marketing: Doing the Right Thing

The Cargo nightclub/concert hall within the Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, Nev., may be only a year old but it’s already donated a lot of time and money to charitable causes.

Many bars and nightclubs are finding causes they believe in and supporting them, mostly out of pure philanthropy. Here we’ll take a look at what a couple of companies are doing:

During its opening weekend last June Cargo donated all proceeds to the Sierra School of Performing Arts to support students’ education and performances. “We chose this organization because it shares our values for arts education,” says Niki Gross of Whitney Peak Hotel.

Then in October it donated all proceeds from one show at the venue to Moms on the Run, which supports mothers going through breast cancer treatment.

And in December, Cargo asked attendees to an event to bring a toy instead of buying tickets, and those toys—about 800 in all—were donated to Toys for Tots. “It was a wildly successful event for everybody,” Gross says, “and we actually made money from the event from bar sales.”

Coming up in May is a party in conjunction with the Reno Sculpture Festival. “We like to support things that further the city and the development and growth downtown,” Gross explains.

Cargo will hold a ticketed party with a recognized DJ, David Sugalski, from which all proceeds will go to the Sierra Arts Foundation, which supports art education and arts endeavors. Gross anticipates this event making at least $5,000

Cargo has been involved with five charitable events during its first year and expects to participate in six to eight every year going forward, “depending on who reaches out to us,” Gross says. “We usually sit down and have a conversation about the organization and make sure it aligns with our brand. Is it community minded? Is it supporting the efforts to put Reno on the map as a destination city? Are the people using the money wisely?” she says.

“We choose to do this because it’s important to the hotel and its employees to give back in meaningful ways to the local community,” Gross adds. “It’s the right thing to do.”

While it’s a laudable endeavor and mostly altruistic, there is some residual benefit to Cargo.

There’s the tax writeoff, says Gross—nonprofits can deduct 100% of whatever they donate—and of course it only helps the nightclub’s reputation, “We are big proponents of community involvement and supporting the growth of Reno for both its residents and for tourists. Anything we can do to help build our community has an direct impact on our business as well,” she explains.

In just its first 10 months, Gross estimates that Cargo donated $20,000 in money and time. “We’ve only just scratched the surface of what we can do and a lot of people still don’t know we are here.”

With nightclubs and restaurants in New York City and Las Vegas, TAO Group has a charitable arm to its company. TAO Group Cares represents the charitable efforts of the company’s three restaurant and nightclub properties (Tao and Marquee) in Las Vegas.

TAO Group Cares partners with The Jump for Joy Foundation. Tao and Marquee nightclubs host annual Dance Against Obesity events during the day when they’re not open—to-date, the clubs have rotated holding them each year; this year’s will be held at TAO.

Kids and their parents attend the benefits and there are activities for all age groups. DJs spin music so kids can dance, do classes like Zumba and exercise. For the parents there are cooking classes during which TAO’s culinary team teaches them to prepare healthy meals. Educational activities are geared towards everyone, with information on healthy eating and cooking.

“This has been getting bigger every year,” says Mike Snedegar, entertainment marketing director for TAO Group. This year, the event, held April 25, was the third and he anticipated there being more than the 350 attendees that came last year.

TAO Group Cares promotes this event city wide in local publications and community calendars and via social media. It also tries to set up pre-event and onsite interviews with Jump for Joy Foundation & TAO Group Cares spokespeople.

TAO restaurants in New York and Las Vegas also have a partnership with Whole World Water, through which they filter, bottle, and sell their own water in reusable glass bottles and contribute 10% of the sales to the Whole World Water Fund. The restaurants also donate a percentage of profits from a special daily menu to the Three Square Food Bank, which fights hunger in Southern Nevada.

TAO Group Cares markets the events “to bring more awareness to the causes and allow the Las Vegas community a chance to become involved in an issue they might not have been aware of,” Snedegar says.

Tao Group Cares was set up two years ago “because wanted to have an extension of our brand,” he says. “Staff members were doing their own thing and we thought we’d do an extension of that and do something everyone can be involved in. It’s all on a volunteer basis, but if there’s a particular cause that appeals to an employee they can suggest it.”


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