Philanthropy and Online Business – Tips for Success

There’s that little piece of all of us that strives to be a better human being.  Some act on that piece, some don’t.  No judgement here, I have a lot of thoughts that I don’t act on – arguably those thoughts shouldn’t be acted upon, but when it comes to philanthropy and online business, getting started and finding the right fit can be tough.

The idea of a business donating proceeds to a charity has been around since marketing began.  There has always been motive behind these donations – the word of mouth attached to a brand because of their good works can be invaluable if it’s done correctly.

If done incorrectly, it can be awful.

So what can you do to be a philanthropic online organization?  Here are some tips for finding and benefiting from affiliating your brand with a charity, or a set of charities.

Find a charity you and/or your staff feel passionate about.  Don’t pick something because it’s there.  Without passion, there’s little drive to succeed. Getting buy in from your customers begins with your employees buying into the program.

Find a way for your customer’s CHOICE to be their donation.  If a customer only has to chose your brand to donate, and an extra cost or charge is not levied – they’re much more likely to participate – and choose your brand over another.  A great example is Newman’s Own.  I buy their spaghetti sauce and salad dressings.  I do it because 1) they taste good; and 2) they donate profits to a great charity.  It doesn’t really cost me much to do this, it’s a donation by decision vs. a donation by dollar. Here is a really good article that outlines how to incorporate philanthropy into your business.

Find a program that will partner with you.  Their participation is vital to success.  If you’re both marketing the promotion, your outreach can grow exponentially.  It also helps to have an advocate at the charity that can help you create marketing collateral such as logos, email headers, etc.

Be transparent.  Show every dollar you raise, and show the process of giving to your charity, and their receipt of your gift.  Images, press releases, video, there’s a lot of opportunity here.  Take advantage of the press you can receive, and protect your brand from critics by being extremely clear about what you’re doing.

Grow a thick skin.  In any venture, there are haters.  People whose sole purpose in life is to make everyone around them (and on the internet) as miserable as they are.  They will criticize, they will question your choice of charity, they will argue with your reasoning.  You will not change their mind.  Before you launch your philanthropic journey – make sure your mission and goals for the program are very clear, so you can point critics back to them when they try to cast a negative light on your effort.

Be gracious, and humble.  Thank each and every one of your customers who donate for their contribution.  Outline what their contribution means to the charity, and how the funds will be used.  If you run a thoughtful and thankful campaign, your next campaign may have some repeat customers.

As a marketer, I see another side to philanthropy.  The ability for you as a business owner to gain word of mouth and other marketing opportunities, such as links, from your involvement.  I always warn that this is a side benefit, and should never be the sole reason you plan to be charitable.  The passion for the charity outlined in the first bullet point is really a key component to success.  If you go into the whole process with a “WIIFM – What’s In It For Me” mentality – you wont get much out of it at all, and it defeats the purpose of charity.

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