If you’re a small business owner, it’s not news to you that times are tight out there. We’re all seeing our customers, friends, and neighbors struggling to make ends meet in the tough economic environment. At this time of year, people are worried about heating their homes, putting food on the table, and making sure that little ones get what’s on their holiday lists. Community charitable organizations are turning to small business owners seeking donations of merchandise and cash.
Should you help out? Demonstrating that you’re an engaged, caring member of your community is always good business. However, we all have limited budgets. That means we have to be strategic about our giving – and make our generosity serve our business as well as it benefits the community.
Here are five ways to make sure that you gain when you give:
Contribute to Causes That Are Most Meaningful To Your Customers
The fact that you’re inspired by or passionate about a particular cause does not mean that this issue matters to your customers. When you give as an individual, you can let your heart be your guide. When you give as a business, it’s important to take your customers’ feelings and passions into account. For example, if you run a pet food business, donating pet food and toys to local holiday animal shelter fundraisers is a very good idea.
Your customers may come to you with their favorite causes throughout the year. Pay attention to these requests. If the same organization keeps coming up, it may be very important for your business to support it. When your customers see that you support causes they find personally meaningful, it strengthens the bond they feel with your brand. You are giving them another reason to do business with you.
Have a Plan to Let Your Customers Know About Your Giving
When you donate to a cause, ask the organization how they’re recognizing donors. See what you can do to maximize the benefit you get from this recognition. For example, if your business name is listed in a yearbook or on a sign at a sports field, get pictures of this and share them on your social media and website. Many smaller organizations are not very proactive about recognizing their donors. Don’t be afraid to start this conversation. You may help them become more effective fundraisers!
Highlight Your Giving In Your Place of Business
Designate a place within your business to publicize and promote your charitable contributions. This can be a simple bulletin board or framed photos and letters related to your giving. For best results, put this display somewhere your customers spend some time waiting, such as near the reception area or by dressing rooms. An attractive, eye-catching display is really a silent salesperson, working on your behalf to say “These are good, caring people here. You should do business with them!”
Don’t forget that your customers want to help their friends & neighbors out as well. Provide them with an opportunity to participate. You can even incentivize participation. One jeweler collected non-perishable items in store with a food drive, and gave their customers 15% off for their next purchase if four or more food items were donated, and matching all donations given. Everybody wins!
Publicize Your Donations Through Traditional Media
Every time your company makes a donation to a charitable organization or community cause, you need to let the media know. Send out a press release to all local media, highlighting your business name, the name of the cause, and – most important of all! – the reason you made the donation. Raising awareness of the group’s need while mentioning your own contributions is a great way to get yourself onto local television, radio, and in the paper.
If you’re contributing to a cause in a very unique or newsworthy way, such as creating the world’s largest pizza or hosting a bathtub race, extend your PR campaign to national media. News outlets like CNN and the Associated Press are always open to feel-good stories, especially if the events of the day have been unremarkable or particularly depressing.
Talk About Your Giving On Social Media and Your Website
Use your social media presence to raise awareness for the cause, talk about your contribution, and why you felt it was important to give. Tone is very important. Rather than praising yourself for being generous, be very matter of fact about your decision to give, and encourage others to do the same. That way you’ll be seen as participating in creating positive change in your community rather than promoting yourself.
On your company website, you should have a page or area that highlights your company’s contributions to charitable and community causes. If your employees volunteer, try to get pictures of them in action. You can also include any thank you messages you received from the causes, as well as links to media coverage of your donations.
Giving Is Great
Giving is great. Making positive change in our communities becomes easier when we all contribute what we can. Being strategic about where you give and how you share information about that giving can help you build your brand. That’s the best kind of giving – where everybody gains!