You’ve got your marketing strategy all planned out for the year. It’s full of proven tactics and great new ideas, but it could be missing something. Is giving back in your marketing plan?
If not, here’s why it should be—and how to do it right.
Corporate Giving Vs. Cause Marketing
First things first, we need to make a distinction between corporate giving and cause marketing.
Cause marketing is the calculated support of a cause, often through a campaign, with the goal of making money. Note that we have nothing against cause marketing. Giving can certainly be an effective marketing tactic and contribute to positive outcomes at the same time.
Corporate giving is different because it puts the cause over any profits.
Corporate Giving: What & Why
Corporate giving (AKA giving back, philanthropy) is “the act of a corporation or business promoting the welfare of others, generally through charitable donations of funds or time.”
Giving back for the sake of making a difference (and not a buck) may not directly drive profits like cause marketing can, but it can contribute to business goals all the same. It also improves your organization’s public image and attract and retain employees. Any resulting positive press coverage or word-of-mouth strengthens your brand and sets you apart to potential customers, investors, and employees. 64% percent of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. One study found that corporate social responsibility programs can also increase employee engagement by up to 7.5%, increase productivity by 13%, and reduce turnover by 50%.
Corporate giving enhances customer relationships as well. 91% of consumers reported that they were likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality.
Patagonia is a great example of intentional—and successful—corporate giving. It is committed to supporting environmental sustainability, and it invests one percent of its sales in the preservation and restoration of the environment each year (among other initiatives). Despite this giving and marketing that at times actively instructs customers not to purchase their products, Patagonia has annual growth in the double digits.
Mistakes to Avoid
Corporate giving can go wrong, so be careful to avoid mistakes like these.
Picking the Wrong Causes
Philip Morris is the largest tobacco company in the United States. So the fact that it’s funding a campaign to encourage smoking cessation has raised eyebrows. The campaign has been referred to as “staggering hypocrisy.”
Choose causes that make sense for your organization and that your stakeholders can rally around, as Patagonia has done.
Doing It For the Wrong Reasons
However you choose to employ the strategy of giving back, success hinges on authenticity and sincerity. It can be pretty obvious if advancing causes or helping others isn’t a true goal.
Take the tweet below. What was Kellogg UK’s goal? It appears to be gaining publicity around their charitable efforts—not helping hungry children.
If your organization is sincerely focused on having an impact—and benefits are peripheral—that will be obvious too.
The more consistent the efforts, the more impact they will have. Don’t just give here or there. If you have the ability, craft a program that intentionally and sustainably supports causes you believe in. You’ll be able to track the impact your support has over time.
Tooting Your Own Horn
There’s nothing wrong with talking about your giving efforts—to an extent. But avoid “tooting your own horn” and let your employees, partners, clients, and the organizations that benefit from your giving do most of the talking on your behalf.
Corporate Giving In Action
At 2 Fish Company, we’ve seen the benefits of corporate giving firsthand. We’re conscious that sharing about our giving program may come across as tooting our own horn, but we want to share an example of how you can design a unique giving program that works for your organization.
We give back by reinvesting 10% of our profits, in the form of work hours, into our community. We pick several non-profit organizations we believe in and gift them marketing support. These projects become part of our “10% Initiative.”
How did we decide on this approach? As a small business, we find this to be a sustainable way to support our community. Plus, it’s sustainable for the community organizations we support. While gifts of money and goods are important, our 10% Initiative recipients use the marketing strategies we develop with them and materials we create for them to amplify their story and encourage more people and organizations to give.
We choose recipient organizations based on their mission and vision. Employees are invited to make nominations and join in on the selection process, which means the causes are something the whole team rallies around.
Making a difference has always been the primary goal of our 10% Initiative, but we’ve been surprised by the benefits to our organization. About half of the recipients we’ve selected have gone on to become paying customers! They trust us enough to invest their dollars into our work because they know we have their best interest at heart. For one organization, our “return on investment” (so to speak) has been over 600%.
How To Get Started with Corporate Giving
Giving back is something any organization can do on some level. We’d guess that yours already supports causes to some degree. An intentional giving program will help you concentrate your efforts and have an even bigger impact.
If you’re ready to start crafting a giving program, begin by choosing causes that align with your values and mission. Causes that all of your stakeholders—customers, employees, shareholders, the community—care about.
Next, work to figure out a giving strategy that’s sustainable for your organization. Whether you have an abundance of resources or not, there are plenty of ways to make an impact. Maybe you’ll be able to give money or goods. Or perhaps it makes more sense to focus giving around donated work hours or volunteer hours. Maybe it depends on each cause.
You could run into some pushback as you work to implement a giving program. Employees may wonder why your giving is not instead beefing up their paychecks. Investors may be concerned about how it will affect their payout. If the causes you support are ones they are already excited about or invested in, it will be much easier to get buy-in.
It might take some trial and error to find a sound, sustainable system. Once you do, enjoy the knowledge that you’re doing good while strengthening your organization (and don’t be surprised when you see some unexpected benefits).