By: Derek Johanson
For many of us, charity is one of those ideals that would be “nice” to work in somewhere. We get it. It’s a way to thank the community that has grown our business, pay forward the services of those who have mentors, invest in a cause we feel passionate about, and we even genuinely enjoy the warm fuzzies charitable giving brings. Why don’t we do it, then? Because at first glance, it looks like a pocketbook suicide strategy. Factor in some careful planning, however, and the surprising truth emerges: charitable work is smart business when it’s done correctly. Furthermore, it benefits absolutely everyone involved.
Consider, first, the charity you would be helping. It is easy to forget that nonprofits have the same needs as businesses. They need to network, they need to advertise, they need to pay bills, and ultimately, they need to deliver whatever they are promoting. As a business owner, it’s not only the money you give or the service you offer that is so beneficial to nonprofits, it’s your name, your network, your customer base, and the awareness that follows your involvement that makes your contribution so valuable. Like you, owners of nonprofits have to make a living, and that usually means that they have very little time for developing their organization. Your participation can be a blessing in so many ways.
The inevitable concern is, “I’d be more than happy to do that personally, but a small business doesn’t have those kinds of resources. We have to expect an ROI on everything we do.” When coupled with effective public relations, even charity, it seems, has an ROI.
At the very least, a well managed event or contribution for a charity automatically expands your network of professionals and potential customers who already have a good relationship with your organization. By exposing your business to everyone invested in the efforts of the nonprofit, each one of those people can refer new business and put in a good word through word of mouth within their own networks.
Beyond that, however, a charitable promotion or event is attractive to customers and employees alike. In his 2011 book Drive, businessman and psychologist Daniel Pink’s research indicates that a sense of purpose and contribution to larger goals is increasingly more motivating than the profit motive’s traditional “stick and carrot” approach.” Customers want to feel that sense of purpose and satisfaction of contributing, as do employees, owners, and even other associates such as consultants and suppliers. It isn’t surprising, then, that a 1997 study found that 76 percent of consumers would likely switch from their current brand to one associated with a charity, assuming that the products are about the same quality and price. No amount of ad money can buy the respect and trust consumers have for a business that is invested in the community, and service with a charity organization is a perfect start to developing such loyalty.
This goodwill can be perpetuated by the opportunity for inexpensive media coverage that often accompanies charitable contributions. Whether it’s managing a food drive, performing litter pickup, donating money, or hosting an awareness discount special, such events make great press releases, which tell the story of your business and the charity in local news sources. News articles not only have wide readership, consumers know they can trust them – far more than they are willing to trust advertisements. PR and Ad agencies can quickly and inexpensively produce and submit press releases to the appropriate sources, offering both the nonprofit and the business publicity at a scale that is ordinarily impossible at such a low cost.
It’s difficult to find a reason not to contribute to charity. It aids a specific cause, contributes to a stronger community, generates awareness for the organization you serve, strengthens existing relationships, energizes and unifies employees, attracts new customers, advertises effectively and inexpensively, and, well, it feels great!