In today's environment, businesses are no longer judged just on their bottom line. The role they play in the community also impacts their reputation. Not only does charitable giving help the communities and causes a business supports, but it also helps improve brand image.
The way you go about marketing your charitable efforts can either give your company's public relations a boost or, if done wrong, can tarnish your business reputation. Consumers are getting better at identifying which companies are just trying to improve their image and which ones actually care about the causes they are supporting. Here is how you can successfully promote your business with charitable marketing.
Get people talking about you in a positive way
Getting business done requires building relationships, and one way to do that is to let people see that you're giving back to the communities that support you. Rather than simply writing checks or donating food to good causes, companies become a force for positive change while enhancing their customer appeal and long-term competitiveness. As a result, some have reconceived their products to address social issues, while others have transformed their supply chains.
Don't think that just because you might own a small business that you shouldn't participate either. Giving increased across the board in 2019, from American individuals (5.1% increase) to corporations (13.4% increase) to foundations (2.5% increase). Not only will your customers praise your social responsibility, but your employees will as well. Millennials, which are currently the largest generation in today's workforce, care very much about social responsibility and often factor that in when choosing where to work.
A Cone Communications study revealed that 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company, while 83% said they would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues
How can your company apply this? All businesses, regardless of size, can benefit from targeted charity marketing. First, make storytelling a central part of your charitable marketing efforts. Use your website, social media platforms and email newsletters to tell the stories of your company and founder. Additionally, you can tell your customers' stories through testimonials and case studies. Use photos and video to complement each narrative as much as possible.
If you pick your positive actions well, they can be good publicity and good for the bottom line. Many green initiatives call for an upfront investment that may be significant, but it can end up saving a lot of money over time.
Installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs can sustainably last approximately 20 years and slash utility bills with little upfront cost. Likewise, adding solar panels to the roof of a warehouse can generate electricity and allow you to buy a lot less energy from the local utility company.
How can your company apply this? Going green is a win-win, and it doesn’t always require a huge investment. Reducing packaging, for example, can mean spending less on buying raw materials while also being able to advertise a new and more environmentally friendly package design. In addition, purchasing locally-sourced ingredients or products helps the planet and local companies as well. Likewise, modifying an office to be more energy-efficient can reduce heating and cooling bills.
Partner with a charity
Although your reasons may be wholly altruistic and you want to do something good, you can still set giving goals. For instance, if you have a family member suffering from a medical condition, you may want to target charities helping those with the disease.
You could also tie your charitable contributions to your products or services. For instance, if your market is parents with young children, you could choose charities such as children's hospitals or educational initiatives.
Although monetary donations are routine, you could also partner with charities to provide a service. For instance, a laundromat or dry cleaner could volunteer to clean clothing for the homeless.
Some kinds of giving can also be charitable investments. For example, technology companies often support organizations that seek to provide more children with the opportunity to learn about computers.
Tech companies need a base of customers who care about using technology and feel good about it, and they need access to employees with the right skills to produce value for their organizations. By putting money into helping kids to develop these interests, they're encouraging them to grow up into the sort of people who will be good students, employees, and customers.
How can your company apply this? When partnering with a charity, be creative. Consider a local one that aligns with your values and niche instead of always choosing a well-known one. Start by donating company products that will benefit the organization in an impactful way or for a specific charity event or fundraiser. The organization can cross-promote your business and products, giving you access to many new leads and potential revenue.
In business, being charitable doesn't have to be an act of pure sacrifice. The companies who go out of their way to give back to the community and make sure that people feel good about being their employees or customers get many benefits back in the process.
Don’t over promise and under deliver. You are running a business that needs to pay rent, utilities and your staff, so take the time to do the required budgetary planning to sustain that contribution. Seek legal counsel if you are unsure of how to partner with a charity properly.
How can your company apply this? Supporting a cause or even putting charity at the forefront can increase engagement between you and your customers and between you and your employees. It can also help expand your investor and partner network.
Develop the market
Some kinds of giving can also be regarded as charitable investments. Technology companies often support organizations that seek to provide more children with the opportunity to learn about computers. This is a charitable action that brings them a lot of good press, but it's also good for the industry over the long term.
They need a base of customers who care about using technology and feel good about it, and they need access to employees with the right skills to produce value for their organizations. By putting money into helping kids to develop these interests, they're encouraging them to grow up into the sort of people who will be good students, employees and customers.
How can your company apply this? Donate your old laptops, desktops and tablets to organizations specifically set up to provide refurbished computer equipment to kids. Laptop.org, LittleGeeks.org and other similar charities exist throughout the country for that exact purpose.
Examples of charitable marketing
There is no shortage of examples of how top brands are successfully promoting their business with charitable marketing
- TOMS has had philanthropy on its mind since the company started selling shoes. Over the years, the globally recognized brand still gives one-third of its profits to a range of grassroots organizations.
- The eyewear brand Warby Parker utilizes charity marketing to offer free eyeglasses and exams to students in need, while also training adults to administer essential eye exams and sell glasses affordably.
- Swedish furniture store IKEA currently gets approximately half of its wood from sustainable foresters and 100% of its cotton from Better Cotton farms. Over 700,000 solar panels power its stores, and employees have received bikes to encourage them to lower their carbon footprint. In this case, IKEA’s charity marketing benefits its sustainability, its customers and engages its employees.
In business, being charitable doesn't have to be an act of pure sacrifice. The companies that go out of their way to give back to the community and to make sure that people feel good about being their employees or customers get a lot of benefits back in the process.