Giving Back Stressing You Out?
Fighting Charitable Giving Paralysis and Where to Start
Partnering with a nonprofit and giving back isn’t just a suggested business practice anymore: it is something that today’s consumer has come to expect. Whether someone somewhere is getting a pair of shoes for each pair purchased (TOMS Shoes), the social conscious product you are selling is actually made out of recycled materials to help save our planet (sustainable fashion), or your used products are now being recycled and turned into safe and fun play surfaces for kids (NIKE) – you can find a fan base that can get behind the cause.
There are countless classes and article for nonprofits on how to reach businesses to help support their cause through charitable giving and event sponsorships, but you will be hard pressed to find something for business owners – especially social conscious ones – on how to find a cause that best matches their business goals.You will not be in business very long before you are presented with the opportunity to support a local charity in some way. Cause marketers have gotten very savvy with making their “why” tug at the heartstrings and ultimately the purse string of those who take the time to hear their story, so much so that saying no becomes a non-option.
When helping businesses create their marketing plan and budgets, I am often asked: how do you find a cause to support? How do I know which cause is best for my business? How much of my marketing budget should be set aside for this kind of activity? Charitable giving… I have so many questions – where do I start? Here are a few thoughts on the frequently asked questions for your consideration.
How do I find a cause to support? Well my friend, if you are in Eastern Iowa, you are in a market oversaturated with worthy causes to choose from. This is no secret: the nonprofits know they are all asking from the same donor pool, and they, too, are looking for you – a strong super fan to help support their cause. But they don’t just want someone who will give money. They want someone who will help amplify their voice. They will obviously help you amplify yours as well, celebrating you for all the good you are doing, but keep in mind that if their cause doesn’t speak to your target audience, your company culture, or you personally, there really is no marketing ROI for you. You have to be good with that or be more strategic about how you choose who to support.
How do I know which cause is best for my business? Whether you are a professional looking to join a board or a marketer looking to add charitable giving to your marketing budget, I always give these simple criteria: does the organization’s mission/values fit with your company’s mission/values? Look for something you, your stakeholders, your team, your clients, and your partners can all get behind that aligns with your core values and mission. Look for something you are all willing to not only support financially, but with your time and talents. Plan to volunteer, give back and give generously. You can’t just throw money at it and expect to get something in return, so be sure that whatever you choose, you are all-in and have complete buy-in.
Also, check out their credentials, just like you would with a business partner or vendor on BBB or Duns. Check to see if the organization you are thinking of giving to is legit. CharityNavigator.org or guidestar.org are two free online resources that rate charities and provide full reports so you know where you money is going. But keep in mind, many smaller or new nonprofits may not be rated yet as they are too new or haven’t raised enough money yet and these organizations are just as worthy, if not more so. The smaller nonprofits are making big waves for their cause so these sites shouldn’t be your only criteria, but they will help identify any major red flags.
How much of my marketing budget should be set aside for this kind of activity? This is a tricky question. Let’s face it, most businesses don’t heed to the general rule of thumb of spending 5% of their total revenues on marketing to maintain or up to 10% of their revenues if they want to grow or pivot. So for me to tell you what percentage you should spend totally depends on what you are spending now. Long ago when the advertising ethic rules limited where legal marketers could spend their dollars, sponsorships and charitable giving opportunities were an ideal place to leverage a higher percentage of funds, but now that the ethic rules for marketing have been lifted, the sky really is the limit. So that is when your plan and strategy come into play. Whatever the amount you decide to spend, be sure it is something that is sustainable. You want to be sure that your business model supports the amount of funds you have promised to deliver. Don’t say you are going to give a shoe for each shoe purchased if you can’t afford it. Instead of deciding on a set dollar amount, consider a percentage of your profits as a more realistic promise. That way if the economy takes a turn either way you won’t overpromise and underdeliver.
I mean, it’s charity: how could you go wrong? Actually, I can see a few things going wrong. What if you align with a charity that is in direct conflict with your values and mission? This could cause a ripple in the feel good waves you are trying to create. You could come across hypocritical or even condescending and offensive. The KFC “Buckets for a Cure” campaign comes to mind. Many felt it wasn’t in good taste for a fast food restaurant to be raising money to help cure health problems when eating their product wasn’t particularly good for their health. What if you over promise and under deliver? You could leave the nonprofit in a sticky situation financially. They often stick closely to their budgets and a miscalculation due to a shift in receivables – especially a larger one – could be quite damaging.
Giving back is always a good idea nonetheless. We are all here to help the world be a better place and every day is a good day to do your part. If you need help creating a charitable campaign that works best with your mission and vision or choosing a cause to support we are here to help! We love sparking joy through giving and acts of kindness.