Many companies are beginning to focus more on charitable giving in order to generate goodwill for their brand. In fact, according to a study by the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, 90 percent of small businesses support local charitable organizations and nonprofits. Cause-related marketing not only increases awareness of your own company, it also increases awareness for organizations you care about.
Some of the top charitable corporations include Wal-Mart, General Electric and Google—each of these companies donates hundreds of millions of dollars to various organizations worldwide. While your business may not have the means to be one of the largest donors, you may be able to partner up with a charitable organization for cause-related marketing.
Choosing an organization
When you’re ready to make a charitable contribution, the first step is to choose an organization. Many customers create special pink products and sales in October for Breast Cancer Awareness month and will then donate proceeds to the American Cancer Society. However, if you’re a local small business, you may want to consider choosing a local organization to support, like a soup kitchen, hospital or shelter.
Another option is to choose an organization that is related to your business. If you run a women’s boutique, for example, team up with a local women’s shelter. If you run a restaurant, pair up with a food bank. If you’re an office-based company, create a drive to provide school supplies for underprivileged children.
Make sure to do your research on the organization you end up choosing to partner with for your fundraiser. There are multiple Web sites like Charity Navigator, GiveWell and the American Institute of Philanthropy that are committed to providing information about major charities so that people interested in giving will know exactly how the money is spent. If the organization you want to choose is just a local group, talk to the organizers to find out the financial details so that you know your fundraising efforts are not wasted.
In the end, it’s important to choose a nonprofit organization you personally care about. If you know someone serving in the armed forces and choose to raise money for a related organization, include information about why you chose that group. It will not only encourage people to give, it will also provide an opportunity for you to show that your company cares about those in need.
How to donate
There are a variety of ways to run your charitable campaign. One option is to donate a percentage of your sales for a certain period of time. If your company is service-based and not product-based, provide a package or deal related to the services you provide.
If your company builds or manufacturers products, you can create specialty products that are sold to raise money for the charity. This could even be as easy as changing the labels on products to signify which ones will raise money for the charity you have chosen.
Another option is to become affiliated with a charitable organization. The charity will promote your company while your business donates a commission or portion of the sales generated back to the charity.
Recently, many companies have also begun using social media as part of their charity campaigns by providing a certain dollar amount for every new follower on a Facebook or Twitter page. For example, Out of Print, an organization that donates a book to its partner Books to Africa, ran a campaign called 1 Follow, 1 Book. For a two-week period, Out of Print provided one book to a community in need through its charity partner for every new follower it gained on Facebook and Twitter. If your company is interested in increasing its social media presence or doesn’t have the means to create a custom product or service, including an option that helps a charity will provide an incentive to those who are on the fence about following brands or companies on their social media sites.
Regardless of the option you choose to utilize, try to be creative. SONIC Restaurants teamed up with the organization DonorsChoose.org to help provide money for classrooms in need through their drive called Limeades for Learning. Participants are allowed one vote per day for a classroom; however, they’re provided two extra votes with any SONIC purchase. This not only encourages people to go to SONIC to gain extra votes, it also allows the regular patrons of SONIC to participate in this campaign. Finally, SONIC is encouraging extra votes by providing an additional $100,000 donation to fund more projects.
The restaurant chain will also provide a free Medium Cherry Limeade for everyone that voted if Limeades for Learning reaches 1.5 million votes for projects by the end of the campaign.
Running the campaign
Once all the details of the campaign have been finalized, spread the word about the fundraiser through your own marketing outlets. Make sure to allow enough time for your customers and clients to participate. Many companies will provide between two weeks and a month for their campaigns, depending on the scale and details.
It’s also important to try and utilize the charity’s user lists. This can help you tap into a network of people who care specifically about a cause, but who may not know anything about your company.
Finally, be very clear about how your fundraiser works. Set specific dates and guidelines so that your customers and clients understand what they need to do in order to donate. There is a very fine line between raising money for charity and abusing situations in order to market your brand.
For example, Microsoft’s Bing received backlash when they tweeted that the company would donate $1 per re-tweet (up to $100,000) to the victims of the Japan earthquake. Many people viewed the offer as Microsoft using a tragedy in order to benefit the company. In the end, the Bing apologized for its actions and donated the full $100,000 to help earthquake victims.
Charity marketing should not be a publicity stunt for your company. Serving the community and giving back to those in need are core values that are important to many businesses and customers—and that should be the ultimate goal of any charity event in which you participate.