A law firm underwrites a local business college’s Family Business Awards Luncheon. A maker of “12-Horse Ale” sponsors a “Horses on Parade” promotion benefiting local charities. An accounting firm invites key clients to participate in a Pro-Am golf tournament it is co-sponsoring. These businesses know what recent research has proven: that doing good is good business. Consumers, employees, and community stakeholders are more likely to support companies associated with good causes. Studies consistently show charitable donations and corporate sponsorships have a positive impact on the bottom line through increased sales, improved consumer loyalty, employee morale, and enhanced brand awareness. It is an often inexpensive way to extend your public relations profile.
If your company already gets a lot of good publicity, you may be deluged with requests for charitable donations and corporate sponsorships. Or you might be on the lookout for ways to make a name for yourself, perhaps considering a formal giving program as part of your public relations strategy. Either way, there are some critical steps to take in order to maximize the return on your charitable donations and corporate sponsorships.
1. “Begin with the end in mind.” Following that famous Stephen Covey dictum, define the objective(s) of your giving program or charitable donation. Some possibilities:
2. Align action with values. Identify causes that are consistent with your business values. Is your company known for innovation? You could reinforce that value by supporting a program that helps students develop entrepreneurial skills. Are you one of the many younger business people –- especially high-tech, start-up entrepreneurs –- who are hands-on and results-driven? Venture philanthropy may suit your style; choose a charity whose leadership shares your need for action, a charity where you can make an impact and have direct involvement.
3. Match mission to target markets. Many companies give heavily to educational programs as a long-term investment in a skilled workforce. Pharmaceutical companies targeting women consumers may support causes important to that demographic. A paper manufacturer may focus on environmental causes to establish a “good neighbor” reputation.
4. Get in for the long haul. Go beyond “checkbook philanthropy” and find ways to build a long-term, strategic relationship with your selected charities. Look for nonprofit organizations where the reputation, demographics, and goals are compatible with your business interests.
5. Multiply your investment. Integrate charitable donations, corporate sponsorships, employee volunteerism, and executive expertise with marketing, advertising, and public relations dollars for a total impact that is more than the sum of its parts.
6. Create the infrastructure. Determine internal procedures for allocating funds for corporate sponsorship and charitable donations. In larger companies, charitable donations are often handled by the community relations or public relations department, whereas corporate sponsorships are the realm of marketing. Some organizations accept requests year-round, others on a quarterly basis. Will employees have a say, perhaps through an allocations committee, or through setting aside an amount for corporate contributions to organizations where employees volunteer?
7. Go public. Publicize the areas you are interested in supporting and the procedures you want charities to follow in approaching your company for charitable donations or corporate sponsorship. Include the timeframe, contact information, and criteria applicants must meet to be considered. Coordinate your efforts with your public relations team.
A company of any size, whatever its public relations budget, can get in the charity game. Helping a cause your customers and employees care about -– and one that is also relevant to your business -– can reap tangible and intangible benefits for your public image, your shareholders, and your community.
This article, written by Liz Brown, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.