Sponsoring a charitable event is not only an altruistic way to contribute to your community or a cause near and dear to your heart, it’s also a great way to win the confidence and patronage of customers and prospects – all the while building your brand in the process.
Benefit #1: Newfound credibility
Corporate credibility is one of the hardest things for small- and mid-sized businesses to build. It takes years. But as soon as the public sees your logo and name side-by-side with a charity they’ve come to trust, they assume your business deserves some of the same respect.
Benefit #2: More attention for your marketing efforts
People open, read and respond to marketing efforts from charities far more often than they do for-profit marketing offers. By co-branding the charity’s marketing materials (adding your logo), your brand could gain far more exposure to your target audience than it would in a solo marketing effort.
Benefit #3: Face-to-face interaction
Charity events offer salespeople a rare opportunity to personally mix with their target market in a setting where consumers actually welcome the advance.
Benefit #4: A great reason to call
Many charities depend on their corporate sponsors to drum up interest in events and solicit donations. That gives you a great reason to call your target market (and the charity’s list of donors), introduce / re-introduce your company and leave a good impression of your business – all in the name of charity.
Benefit #5: Free publicity
As the sponsor of a popular charity event, you’ll get valuable publicity each time the local media run a story about it. Play your cards right, and TV news / newspapers will provide pre-event coverage (to encourage participation) and a post-event roundup (featuring the amount of money raised, the winners, etc.).
Benefit #6: Reduced marketing expenses
Most charities will be happy to provide your company with free marketing templates and materials if you’ll manage the implementation / distribution. Plus, there’s usually an opportunity to use the charity’s mailing list for co-branded marketing efforts of your own, as well.
Choosing a charity
Choose a charity close to your heart, but also make sure it’s reputable and well-run. One of the best places to start is Charity Navigator – a free and completely independent online service that analyzes and evaluates over 5,500 U.S. charities.
Promoting your business
There are lots of ways to effectively promote your business via a charitable event / drive without stealing any of the charity’s thunder:
- Direct mail: Direct mail is one of the best mediums for promoting a charitable drive / event (and advertising your business / brand in the process). Even if you do a solo mailing to your own marketing list, make sure the charity gets top billing to maximize the response rates.
- Email: For the best results, include the name of the charity / event in the subject line of your marketing emails (even better, have the organization send the co-branded emails on your behalf).
- Social media: Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools are terrific for ongoing communications about a charity event / drive (and for developing a deeper relationship with your target audience in the process).
- Event T-shirts: At every charitable event, make sure all employees (plus their spouses and children) wear a T-shirt with your company name – just like the good folks at Weichert Realtors.
- Event banners and signs: At a charitable event, there’s almost always an opportunity to hang a banner promoting your business (when you’re a sponsor). Make sure the sign includes as many “brand differentiators” (catchy tagline, attractive logo, striking color scheme and unique selling points) as possible.
- Event booth: At a charity event, there’s often lots of downtime for, and milling about by, the attendees, which makes a corporate booth a great opportunity to interact with and educate prospective customers.
- Premium giveaways: Charitable events / drives are ideal for distributing premiums (pens, calendars, flashlights and other sought-after everyday items) with your company name and logo imprinted on them (or co-branded with the charitable organization).
- Press releases: Most companies wish they had more newsworthy events to communicate to the press. Charitable events / drives are almost always of interest to reporters and editors.
- Take ownership: To maximize the impact of these marketing ideas, consider creating your own charity event. When the name of the event proudly features your business, the marketing benefits can be magnified many times over. See this fundraising checklist for a better idea of what that entails.
Examples of companies doing it right
- For a taste of the positive media coverage an ongoing corporate charity campaign can produce, see this news story about the ERA Castelo Real Estate Group.
- Swagger Gifts, a retail store in North Carolina, found a way to not only give back to the community but also increase customer visits and generate news stories by offering not one but two fundraiser-events (with tie-ins to the premier of a popular new movie). Read all about it
- Hosting a charity event / drive doesn’t have to be a big deal (not if you think creatively). The Yun Fitness Boot Camp has raised more than $2,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation (and boosted its cache in the community) by hosting four no-frills workouts. All they ask is that each participant donates $15. See how simple it can be.
These days, every company is looking to squeeze more value from the old marketing budget. By joining forces with a charitable cause, you’ll reduce marketing expenses, expose your brand to all-new prospects, gain valuable credibility, deepen existing customer relationships, pick up some publicity and give everyone in your company something to feel better about. That’s a huge return, and all for a very modest marketing spend.