You may not automatically think of your business as having a conscience or responsibilities. But just like people, your business has a reputation and role in the community. Incorporating social responsibility in your marketing plan will help your local community, and at the same time, boost business. It’s a great way to build relationships with community members and even your own employees.
How To Incorporate Social Responsibility Into Your Business
Donations: Donate a portion of each sale on a specific item, or write a check to your favorite organization. Donations don’t have to be money though. You can donate furniture or supplies to a local production or organization.
Promotions: Link your donation to a promotion, by donating a portion of each sale during a certain time period or on a specific product.
Sponsorship: Support a local sports team, high school club, 4H, scouts, etc. Not only does this show you care about and are involved in the community, but it usually has the added benefit of plenty of visibility for your business.
Volunteering: Offering your space is a great way to help local organizations. Make your business a drop off location so that community members have an easy place to donate needed items such as coats or food, or even less common items like prom dresses. Your business could become a hub of information and resources for those who need them.
Why Charitable Acts Are Important
1. People want a good reason to buy locally. Being involved in a charity gives them a reason (and a little bit of guilt) to shop your store. And in fact, many are willing to spend a little more with a local business that has a social conscience instead of purchasing the cheaper option at the nearest superstore.
2. It helps people in need. In the end, your contributions will go to a cause that needs it -- and that’s something to feel good about!
3. It helps YOU. Community involvement can increase brand awareness and attract great employees. And, when done right, checkout charity (rounding up at the register) makes customers want to spend more money at your store and makes them feel good about themselves and your business.
Align With the Right Charity
It’s important to find organizations that are a good fit with your business and products that you sell. For example, The Home Depot Foundation works with many organizations to help build and repair homes for veterans and natural disaster victims. Ashley HomeStores “Hope To Dream” program donates a portion of mattress sales to provide beds to children in need. There are so many ways your business can get involved, and it doesn’t always have to be at a national level. A hardware store could support the local 4H or scout troops and provide supplies for activities or events, and a fabric store could lend material for costumes to a high school drama program.
Aligning with an organization related to your business is a great way to help out but that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself. Feel free to branch out and explore something new. Follow these tips to help you pick a charity or organization that works for you:
- Pick something you are passionate about or that you have a connection with. It will be easier to find it worth your time and effort if it’s something you believe in and care about.
- Do your research, don’t just take someone else’s word for it. Make sure the organization is genuine.
- Don’t alienate your customers. You don’t want to align yourself with an organization that would shame or alienate your customers. Social responsibility is important but not worth losing customers over.
- Make sure your values align. You don’t want to associate yourself with an organization that has conflicting values. This will cause customers to lose trust and find a different business to support.
Spread the Word About Your Partnership
Once you’ve chosen the perfect organization it’s time to spread the word about your partnership! This may look different depending on what partnership or organization you’ve chosen, but your customers will still need to know about it. This could vary from having your business name on sports jerseys for a team that you sponsor, to hosting an event. It could be spreading the word about donation boxes at your business, or having signage about what will be contributed for each purchase. Whatever your channel of support, make sure customers are informed so they can contribute to the cause.
Another aspect to keep in mind is timing and frequency. Do you only want a one-time partnership or to contribute seasonally or annually? This may impact the type of organization you choose to align with. If you want to hold a one-time promotion then sponsoring a sports team or local group that continuously hold events may not be the right choice for you; a donation box or annual event may fit your needs better. Timing is also very important. End-of-the-year holiday months is a popular time for charitable giving, so you have to be careful that your cause doesn’t get drowned out by all the other activities during a busy time of year.
One option isn’t better than the other; the most important thing is to do what works best for your business. Social responsibility is important for your community but ideally it will help your business, not hurt it. Similarly, if you are going to do something make sure you commit fully. You don’t want to participate in something for the sole reason to make your business look good, especially if you aren’t invested in the cause or can’t follow through on promises. Not thinking things through could have very negative consequences for your business.
Sure, building a social conscience for your business will make your business look better. But most importantly, it will have a positive impact on the community. Find a cause or organization that you believe in. It will make an impact no matter what type or size of contribution.