Giving back to the community is an important aspect of any marketing strategy. Making an effort to associate your business with a good cause goes a long way toward building positive associations with potential customers, as well as positioning your company above your less-than-philanthropic competitors.
Perhaps the best part about socially responsible brand building, though, is that you don’t need to invest huge amounts of money. Sponsorship can take many forms, and some can have a much broader positive impact than just making a simple donation.
The “Bump” Factor of Philanthropy
Social responsibility in any form boils down to actively showing support for a good cause. Businesses often make the decision to sponsor a non-profit organization, community event, or individual as a way of extending their own principles or corporate values to the places they live and work. In addition to the feeling of personal fulfillment sponsorship provides, the most common benefits are:
- Driving sales and promoting brand awareness
- Building networks through partnerships
- Enhancing your company’s credibility in the community
- Recruiting, retaining or motivating employees
- Showcasing a product or service
In some cases, like with the Integrity Comfort Solutions flood initiative featured below, helping others can lead to bigger profits. The charitable recipients’ supporters and beneficiaries inadvertently become your marketing audience.
Choosing The Right Types of Sponsorship
Preconceived notions about corporate sponsorship often deter businesses from getting involved. Giving in the form of a cash donation is usually the easiest method, only requiring the mailing of a check. If you’re looking for a charity for your business to support, we recommend checking out the following resources.
- Charity Navigator: This popular site offers a variety of resources for finding, tracking, and evaluating various non-profit and charitable organizations. When I worked at PBS, we would always recommend this site for businesses looking to make additional philanthropic contributions. Learn More
- Charity Watch: Founded by the American Institute of Philanthropy, this site Includes a charity rating guide to help businesses make informed decisions. Learn More
- Give.org: This is the the Better Business Bureau’s portal for locating and researching charitable causes. Learn More
Many non-profit organizations offer a multitude of alternative giving opportunities that allow you to get more visibility in the community and a higher level of “free” advertising through their marketing efforts. The key lies in finding the right non-profit, charity, or cause for your business to support, and then choosing how you’ll go about sponsoring them. Some examples are:
Donating everyday services can reap major benefits in positive brand awareness. Organizations such as animal shelters, rehab/recovery centers, after-school programs, and community outreach facilities tend to work with extremely limited funds. Their facilities are often in need of repair or equipment upgrades. Offer the work free-of-charge in exchange for their publicity.
Attend any fundraising event, festival or little league game and there likely will be someone selling raffle tickets or encouraging participation in a “silent” auction. Giving in the form of a product or service donation only costs as much as you want to give. This gets your business name in front of potential winners, and give winners a chance to try you out for free (generating qualified leads through satisfaction and referrals). Donate gift certificates that highlight unique services that you offer, like tune-ups. Or give in the form of a product that relates to the goals of the organization (e.g., a free set of high quality air filters for a respiratory diseases fundraiser or fund a small scholarship to an education-based charity). The possibilities are endless and the return can be far more than the actual investment.
Matching Gift Programs
Public television or radio stations, and charities such as Shriners Hospital often hold fundraising events/telethons that solicit public donations to support the services they offer to the community. Businesses have the option to encourage their employees and customers to donate, and then “matching” the amount of the individual donations, thus doubling the total donation to the organization.
Business owners can also motivate donations in the form of a “challenge” by pledging a specific sum to be donated if a certain number of donations or a dollar amount is collected in a specific amount of time.
Participating as a sponsor in a fundraising event is a great way to create brand awareness for your business. In return for a nominal donation, your logo gets added to the event’s promotional materials, such as t-shirts and event signage. The most common examples are walkathons or “fun runs.”
Many non-profits also raise public awareness and support by hosting luncheons, dinners, or high-end “black tie” galas targeted to a much more affluent clientele. These often feature gourmet food, popular guest speakers, and exclusive entertainment. The levels of sponsorship available can range from purchasing ads in the event program to “hosting” tables.
Events such as these can be beneficial in forming or cementing business-to-business partnerships, as you are not only supporting a good cause, but also networking with other business owners and corporate-level patrons interested in community philanthropy. Museums, hospitals and national organizations such as the YWCA are good examples of where to find events of this nature. Due to the level of patronage involved, supporters may enjoy additional exposure through local media coverage tied to the event, both before and after.
The most direct way to get involved in your community is through volunteering. Creating a team of your employees to go out into the community and assist local non-profits reaps a multitude of benefits. Investing in causes that are important to you and your employees will help the community identify with your company as an organization that cares about more than just making profits.
Subsequently, your business gets great exposure and many opportunities to engage directly with the community at large. Look for charities that organize neighborhood cleanups and need labor to meet their goals. Run a food tent at a county fair or sports event, with all proceeds donated to a specific organization chosen by your staff.
Getting the Word Out
Showing support for philanthropic causes is a wonderful way to connect with the community at large, engage your employees, and increase exposure for your brand. Letting your current – and future – customers know about your efforts is key to seeing a return on your investment.
Mediagistic’s team of advertising and marketing experts can assist by promoting your philanthropic initiatives through social media postings, adding an article to your seasonal newsletter, or creating a graphic to “brand” your endeavors on your service vehicles and direct mail pieces. We can even help you promote specific charities you may already be involved with through your website. Whether you work with our team of experts or your own marketing department, it is important that you don’t let your community efforts go unnoticed!
Case Study: Integrity Comfort Solutions Post-Flooding Outreach
Integrity Comfort Solutions is located just north of Houston, Texas. When the client reached out to Mediagistic, the North-Houston area was still dealing with high waters. Knowing that homeowners would be dealing with flooded systems and potentially thousands of dollars in losses if damaged systems were activated, Integrity wanted to leverage its company’s expertise to help in some meaningful way.
It was decided that the client would engage in a free flood inspection initiative. The client made a short explainer video, and we mocked up some simple coupon creative. Mediagistic then ran multiple social media and PPC campaigns on Integrity’s behalf to get the word out.
The results were as significant as they were unexpected. On Facebook alone, the posts reached more than 18,000 people and received an excess of 500 clicks. As a byproduct of these marketing efforts and Integrity’s cooperation with the area’s insurance companies, a few complete systems even were sold.
This initiative — which began with a simple desire to help out the North-Houston community in its time of need — ended up generating thousands of dollars in revenue for the company.
Socially Responsible Brand Building: A Win-Win Proposition
As you can see, showing support for initiatives within your community is a “win-win” for everyone involved. Positioning your business in the minds of your customers as one that cares can reap more than “warm, fuzzy feelings.”
In the long run, socially responsible brand building has the potential to pay off in brand loyalty, stronger partnerships, and increased sales. And the charity or initiative you choose to support gains a committed patron and exposure to a broader audience.
Susan Rosner is a Senior Designer and Creative Lead for Mediagistic. Previously, she rubbed elbows with Big Bird as the Creative Services Manager for the primary PBS station in Tampa Bay. Susan’s journey has enabled her to play key creative roles for manufacturers, restaurant decorators, and even a science museum!