brand + self // connection + curiosity

Give back and watch your business grow

Originally shared as part of my seasonal business marketing series…

Today we talk about giving back! That’s right, even with the ups and downs of a seasonal business, there’s always an opportunity to rise up with a mindset of abundance! It’s money’s job to flow – to you, through you, and from you. The more positively you welcome it, cherish it and share it, the more you’re attracting even greater abundance your way.

“The biggest thing that giving does, is it teaches your brain there’s more than enough.” – Tony Robbins

south africa, charity, giving back, csr
Captured for IFAW, South Africa, 2016.

It’s a subject near and dear to my heart, as I actually manage strategic partnerships between a nonprofit and for-profit corporations around the world in my 9-5. But that’s not why this ranks high among my top seasonal business tips for you – there’s much more here!

  • Today’s customers demand it. Millennials and Gen Z are known as the giving-est generations, and they want to see that the businesses they support are doing good things too. They believe in their responsibility to create change, and are optimistic that they can. You can take a look at any of the big guys to see where our consumer expectations of brands are growing: Fiji Water can’t help but support the reforestation of rain-forests in Fiji. Costa del Mar sunglasses – a top fav among fishermen – has partnered on a line of sunglasses made from recycled fishing nets (plastic). JetBlue provides free flights to aid workers when a hurricane strikes along its well-traveled Caribbean flight paths. The question is no longer “how are you giving back?” it’s “what are you doing to give back?”
  • Giving strengthens engagement within your community. When your giving entails volunteerism, or donating space and time to local nonprofits, the benefits are obvious. You’ll make friends, you’ll partner together, people will remember your name, you’re all lifting each other up! As a result, there may certainly also be an increase in charitable asks of you, but as needed, you can simply say you’re dedicated elsewhere. Personally, I realized quickly that I needed to limit my donation of photography time to animal nonprofits only – my chosen cause.
  • Doing good connects your brand to new customers. It’s marketing, after all! Of course you care, but connecting your brand to an element of giving is also a wonderful opportunity to increase business. This past weekend I photographed a Mother’s Day brunch that supported Habitat for Humanity. Those patrons could have gone to a half-dozen other restaurants in the same Vermont town, but something brought them to this one. Can you recall making a similar choice in the last week or two?

So first thing’s first: pick your platform! What you do you care about most? Healthcare, education, animal welfare, the planet… If there is a local group doing this work, all the better. Make it meaningful to you and your product or service. Don’t just say yes to any old thing.

BUT it doesn’t have to make sense to be cool! I work with a baby products company that focuses on endangered animals as their cause of choice – rather than more obvious causes such as education or family services. Dig deeper and you understand that kids connect with animals at a very young age, and these adorable products come with playful-yet-educational messaging.

Most importantly, TALK ABOUT IT. Tell your customers, post about it [humbly] on your social media channels. Let the people know! Or at least make sure they find out about it ;-)

P.S. Varieties of charitable giving might include:

  • Give a donation. This is the obvious choice, but did you know that stating you give a certain dollar amount or percentage of your sales to charity is actually detrimental to the charity? Sorry to be a downer, but they can face goo-gobs of legal and tax fees if you haven’t gone through a deeper process of registering with the state and signing a binding contract with the charity. For that reason, I recommend simply saying that you love and support the work XX charity is doing, and “with your help, we hope to make a generous donation this year” …or something similar.
  • Awareness and advocacy. Similar to the above, you may wish to go all-in on adding a nonprofit logo to your product or marketing materials. You want to share their message and stand up for the cause. This is a generous form of giving back! Be loud and proud, and avoid the legalities of publicizing a donation by saying you’ve “joined” together to accomplish X. You can still donate any amount you’d like later.
  • Volunteerism. Get your employees out for a day, or give them a day to volunteer on their own. What skills does your team have that a local charity could benefit from? Stationery, photography, marketing help, carpentry, cooking, painting a wall or planting some flowers all come to mind.
  • In-kind donation: This is where you might offer your physical space, transport vehicles or even technology systems for meetings or events. No money need exchange to be a huge help, and surely you have times when you’re not using your space after hours.
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR). Check in on your operations and practices, whether it’s the materials you source, the methods or conditions they’re sourced in, or how you dispose of these resources later. Are you extra proud of your coffee beans? Do you pay a little extra for that handmade packaging you loved? Maybe you continue to eliminate straws from your business, when everyone else went back to their old ways after a trendy couple of weeks. Go ahead and put up a playful sign about it! Talk about it online. It matters to your ideal customer, I promise.
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brand + self // connection + curiosity