As more customers seek out brands that “do good” in the world, companies are increasingly investing in charity events, employee volunteer days and fundraising efforts for important social causes.
Some small businesses may not believe they have it in their budget to pursue charitable initiatives. However, there are plenty of cost-effective ways to raise awareness for causes that are meaningful to you and your team.
To help, 15 members of Forbes Business Council offered some low-cost ways to authentically tie philanthropy into your brand. Follow their advice to make a difference without breaking the bank.
1. Convene Stakeholders To Host Productive Conversations
Achieving a philanthropic tie-in to a brand can be as simple and efficient as pledging to go beyond the transactional by convening stakeholders with diverse insights for intimate and productive conversations that advance topics important to society. This can be achieved through using wine and events as a business strategy to make people feel heard, inspire hope and advance solutions. – Patroski Lawson, KPM Group DC
2. Participate In Volunteer Efforts For Small Groups
There are multiple volunteer efforts that small groups can participate in that don’t require monetary contributions, such as Habitat for Humanity. These can also serve as great team-building exercises and result in great social media opportunities. – Rob Consalvo, Store Space Self Storage
3. Partner With Charities
Partner with certain charities and causes to participate in volunteer or activist events. You may even host company-wide volunteer events to show your support toward a certain cause that aligns with your company’s core values. This way, you can even encourage your consumers to help out and give their time and funds to this philanthropic effort. – Bill Lyons, Griffin Funding
4. Set Aside Funds For A Good Cause
Take the Bombas approach and have a portion of sales set aside to go to a philanthropic cause. Not only are you doing good, but you’re also creating a reason for someone to buy from you instead of a competitor. Just make sure there is alignment with the cause and your product. – Aimee Meester, Madison Taylor Marketing
5. Choose A Cause Tied To Your Business’s Core Beliefs
Pick a cause that matches your core beliefs as a company and appeals to your customer base. A small business is usually intertwined with the community, so a cause that benefits the greater good of the community is a seamless tie-in to your brand. For example, a local restaurant can give 10% of the proceeds to the local school PTA. It’s mutually beneficial as well. – Rocky Romanella, 3SIXTY Management Services, LLC
6. Partner With Other Businesses
It’s possible to give back without going bust. Partnering with businesses that have shared values and missions is a unique way to collectively donate more and spread the message. Making progress on the world’s toughest problems takes time and commitment—and often multiple actors play a role. As with anything in business, if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together. – Amiee Ball, JAB Consulting Group
7. Tie The Mission To Your Operations
Instead of a traditional approach of committing a percentage of sales and proceeds to a charity, what I believe can be more impactful and cost-efficient is to tie the mission to the operations in some way. For example, a coffee brand can source its beans ethically, build relationships with farmers and highlight those relationships via social media. This can be done with ethical sourcing, sustainable packaging, etc. – Boris Sotnikov, KraftyLab
8. Get Creative
We ask our customers to donate at least one non-perishable food item our delivery team picks up when we are in the home, and most donate many items. Second, we host a community podcast show highlighting local heroes and charities weekly. On this show, we discuss their efforts and how it impacts our community. We make a donation plus they get video content to use on their channels as well. – Jeff Giagnocavo, Gardner’s Mattress & More
9. Provide Employees With Time Off To Volunteer
Give your employees volunteer time off to give back to the organizations or communities that matter to them. This way, philanthropy is built into your business model and your company’s impact is widespread. – Deyman Doolittle, ShipSigma
10. Seek A Social Media Collaboration
Consumers are visual people. Instead of committing to a percentage or holding charity events, seek collaboration on social media with a cause that aligns with your business and personal interests. If the project is executed correctly, the exposure for both organizations is immensely rewarding and beneficial. – Yasmin Walter, KMD Books
11. Appoint Philanthropic Liaisons
We created a role within our leadership team for a person to be our philanthropic liaison. They are responsible for facilitating partnerships with local nonprofits and coordinating our give-back events. After launching this role, we further encouraged employees to participate in group volunteer activities and were able to double our efforts in charitable causes. – Chelle Neff, Urban Betty
12. Provide Non-Monetary Resources
A cost-efficient way to incorporate a philanthropic tie-in is to opt for organizations that require non-monetary resources. For example, sending our people as volunteers for their initiatives is a great way to make a difference and it costs nothing. The employees also get engaged this way and feel good about themselves due to the tie-up. – Saravana Kumar, Kovai.co
13. Leverage Social Media
Social media has allowed brands to leverage their visibility for causes they support. Those with large audiences may be able to direct resources and support through media mentions of the brands they support. It adds credibility to the end causes as well as gives insight into what matters internally to a brand. Kindness and empathy in this arena provide no shortage of goodwill done well. – Paul L. Gunn, KUOG Corporation
14. Ensure Your Philanthropic Efforts Apply To Your Consumer Base
Product fit—meeting the customers’ needs—applies not only to the products or services sold, but also the choice of a philanthropic tie-in. The goal of the tie-in is to demonstrate that the company’s humane-societal values resonate with customers and add value to the purchase. A company needs to determine which customer segments it wants to reach and assess the cost-effectiveness of options to them. – Jerry Cahn, Age Brilliantly
15. Think Long Term
The most cost-efficient option depends on how you tie your brand’s value proposition into your charitable marketing strategies. For example, a small IT company might want to donate funds or staff to support mentoring, internship or education programs in technology. In the process, your organization could build relationships with future employees or learn new ways to solve problems. – Chris McGrath, Esteemed Inc.