Have you ever heard of the Ronald McDonald House? How about Target’s community outreach programs? How does your knowledge of charity efforts affect your opinion of these companies? These are organizations that have dedicated themselves to helping worthy causes in part because they know something that not everyone does: Helping others helps you. I doubt that you’ll be less likely to patronize those companies as a result of their charitable contributions. Involvement in the community is a positive public relations strategy, and a way to connect with the public in a unique way.
Community service and involvement are often an afterthought to busy managers, but establishing yourself as a good neighbor has business-related benefits that are tough to achieve through conventional marketing methods. Members of your community will surely notice and view the company as reputable and trustworthy, and you’ll likely see a morale boost in your employees as well. An added bonus, your company can potentially be mentioned as a sponsor or supporter of organizations on their Web site or in the media, thereby enhancing your marketing efforts. You can also mention your company’s public involvement on your Web site or in other communication venues, too. The opportunities for public relations are numerous.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
There are hundreds of organizations in need of your support. Choose one that is meaningful to you. Here are a few ideas.
- Encourage employees to volunteer. If feasible, have your team take the day off work and instead volunteer for a cause. Many organizations need assistance any day of the year, and some others host special events such as charity races or community cleanup days that are in need of volunteers for many duties. If taking time away from work is not possible, invite the group to participate on a day they aren’t scheduled to work – you may be surprised at their willingness to participate.
- Donate products. Work for a restaurant or grocery store? Donate food to a food bank or even provide snacks for your neighborhood school’s PTA meeting. An office? Donate office supplies to your favorite charity – all organizations have administrative needs.
- Offer discounts to nonprofits. No matter what business you are in, you probably have customers. Offering a discount to those customers who represent a nonprofit organization paints you in a positive light. It shows consumers that your business cares about its community and not simply profit.
- Sponsor a little league team. Making a donation to youth sports in your city takes minimal time or effort, just a monetary donation. In return, your business name may be displayed on the team’s uniform or in league publications.
- Be open to offering pro bono services. Many types of businesses can offer their services free of charge to the nonprofit of their choice. Owners of companies that offer graphic design, legal, tutoring or administrative services, among many others, can easily partner with an organization to assist in accomplishing its goals. Offering free services creates goodwill in the community and encourages a positive corporate image.
- Brainstorm what you have to offer. What does your company have access to that can benefit others? If you have a restaurant, offer meeting space for your local neighborhood watch or other community groups. Perhaps you have extra tables and chairs that can be loaned out for a charity event. You can even ask employees to bring in their used cans and bottles to recycle, and donate the money earned at the recycling center.
GET ADDITIONAL ATTENTION FOR YOUR EFFORTS
Don’t let your good deeds go unnoticed! It’s okay, and in fact a good business practice, to make your company’s participation in the community known. Yes, volunteering and donating is ultimately about the recipients, but recognition for those efforts is justified.
Utilize social media. Does your company have a Twitter or Facebook account? If not, I suggest you consider it. Use those venues to draw attention to your contributions. The benefits of this publicity are twofold. Readers will both (a) become aware of the company’s charity work, therefore viewing it more favorably, and (b) become aware of the cause, therefore becoming more likely to participate themselves. Succinct and relevant posts are most effective – for example “Smith’s Drug Store is holding a canned food drive this month! Drop off non-perishable items at any location through March 31.”
Display your company name. Make it easy for people to recognize that your company is involved! Have your employees wear T-shirts with the company logo when volunteering. Provide a sign to display with your donated products. Ask to be considered a sponsor, allowing your logo to be placed on marketing materials. Showing support from the private sector lends credibility to a non-profit organization, and provides publicity for you.
Exhibit your participation. In appreciation of your volunteerism, you may receive thank you cards or plaques – display those items in your reception area or front counter, along with photographs of your team in action. Mentioning the organizations you support on your company Web site and newsletter is a positive move as well.
Volunteerism serves as a networking opportunity. Have business cards on hand, and keep in contact with the people you meet through community involvement. Add them to your email marketing list, sending information on special sales or events when they arise. Send them a holiday card and other marketing materials, and treat each person you meet as a potential client.
Becoming involved in your community is a distinctive way to support worthy causes while simultaneously growing and strengthening your business. It allows for a connection with the public that is impossible to achieve with traditional public relations strategies. When thinking about ways to market and expand your business, consider community involvement as one component of your plan. Give it a try with a nonprofit you believe in and see for yourself the business benefits to be had.