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AMiable Solution #247: The Act of Charity



As stories of Texas’s recovery continues to flood the news, so do stories of the individuals and businesses who are making big donations and big impacts on those efforts. Without a doubt, NFL star J.J. Watt has increased his visibility and his popularity with his massive fundraising efforts. Likewise, “Mattress Mack,” the Houston furniture store owner who opened a couple of his stores to folks displaced by Hurricane Harvey, has greatly increased his brand recognition and earned customers with his generous contributions.

But can you expect your donations to make headline news?

No. And if that’s the only reason your business or organization wants to support a cause or charity—for the free publicity—then your dollars are better spent elsewhere. Devastated communities can smell ambulance chasers a mile away and care more about their personal losses than your professional gains. Any attention you try to draw on yourself for your charitable acts will be rewarded in social ostracism and lower, not higher, sales.

One-time giving to unforeseen causes—Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma recovery and cleanup, for example—are wonderful, if your organization can afford it, but it shouldn’t be looked at as a marketing opportunity. If you want the joy of helping others and the bonus benefit of helping your business, then creating a long-term partnership with a non-profit organization may be your best bet.

How do you do that?

For starters, Michele Cuthbert, principal of Baker Creative, a brand architectural firm, suggests looking inward. What are your business’s values? Check out your mission statement. It likely contains the philosophy that guides your daily operations. Which causes and non-profits do your customers support? Doing your research and then choosing a cause that resonates with your customers shows them that your priorities and concerns are in sync with theirs. What’s important to your employees? Selecting a charity or cause that matters to them will help create better enthusiasm and support from within.

Once you’ve selected a cause or charity, do your research. Make sure your charity’s mission statement complements yours. Confirm that your chosen charity is registered with the IRS and meets the criteria for tax-exempt organizations. Examine the non-profit’s programs and fundraising tactics. Avoid any that use pressure to raise funds or who won’t share internal information.

Then, do what marketers do best: test the partnership before going all-in. Donate to a small project and see how things go. As Cuthbert suggests, “observe how the charity works during the process. Check for accountability, transparency, and trustworthiness. You will get a sense of how well your organizations work together without the large commitment up front.”

Contributing to the greater good of humanity is an amazing and rewarding opportunity. Just make sure you proceed responsibily.


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