How to give back to the community and gain new customers

Giving Back

This is a guest post by Lexie Lu, a designer and regular blogger at Design Roast.

Every business leader is on the lookout for perks, employee benefits or business strategies that will help generate new customers and attract and retain top notch employees. Many overlook a simple effort that can build goodwill in the community while improving office morale: philanthropy.

Giving is the right thing to do, but it’s also a great way to increase employee satisfaction and gain new customers. Aren’t sure where to get started or how to give? Here are a few tips on how to give back to the community while gaining new customers.

Leverage Social Media and Public Relations

Consider ways to fundraise that would leverage the image and video-heavy content of social media and online newspapers. For example, instead of donating money to a charity, Zappos hosted “Operation Glass Slipper” at its downtown headquarters. The online shoe and clothing retailer donated prom dresses and accessories to needy teens. Photos appeared on many online news sites, blogs and social media channels — because who doesn’t like to see happy kids?

The average Facebook user has about 340 friends, so sharing the news of your charitable giving in a way that encourages social media engagement will help spread your brand name to new potential customers. The earned media obtained from traditional media covering the fundraisers results in positive public relations, as well.

The ultimate example of social media giving gone viral is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The ALS Association gave clear instructions about tagging other followers on social media and linking to their donation page. The results were epic.

Give to a Cause Close to Your Customers’ or Employees’ Hearts

Allow employees or customers to choose the charity to receive your funds. For example, consider hosting a contest that allows the employee with the most sales to pick this year’s charity.

You could also advertise that your 1,000th customer will receive the honor of choosing from a list of charities. Another idea is to tell your customers that the one with the most word-of-mouth referrals by the end of next month can choose the type of charity to benefit from your donation.

Maybe a customer or employee chooses charities that assist children in need or those suffering from illness. APG Exhibits is a company that manufactures large displays, such as outdoor signage and tradeshow booths. Its “Exhibit Kindness” philanthropy is centered on charities that help children, such as the Life is Good Kids Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital.

To the Life is Good Kids Foundation specifically, the company has donated a dollar for each nurse, professional care provider or teacher that’s received training from the foundation to support the kids they care for— their donation in 2015 totaled $5,000.

Offer a Match with Customers and Employees

How can companies widen the net of potential customers even further? Matching gifts is an effective tool for both increasing the amount of each gift and the likelihood that an individual will donate. In fact, it increases the probability that an individual will donate by almost 25%.

Set a budget for your giving, then double that amount as your public goal. For example, if your budget is $10,000, announce that you’re going to raise $20,000 for the charity of your choice — and that every donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar until you reach your goal. You won’t go over budget, and anything raised over $20,000 is a bonus.

A number of larger companies, like Google and Apple, will match employee donations to 501(c)(3)s up to a generous limit. Google matches up to $12,000 of a given employee’s donations while Apple matches up to $10,000.

When Tim Cook took the reins at Apple in 2011, he instituted the company’s matching policy. Since then, Apple has matched over $25 million in donations.

Google has matched over $50 million in contributions, and they will run targeted campaigns to alleviate specific, immediate needs — like a refugee crisis in Europe. They’ve pledged to match the first $5.5 million worth of global donations to this cause, which will benefit Doctors without Borders and other international organizations that offer aid to migrants and refugees.

Make Connections with Other Business Leaders and Donate Time

The match doesn’t have to be just financial. It can also be a matter of time. For example, Dell allows employees volunteer their time during work hours. Letting your employees choose to spend some portion of their workday giving back to others lends itself to stronger connections with that employee as well as local charities your employees support.

Oftentimes non-profit leadership boards are comprised of a who’s who of local community leaders in education, business, religion and more. By focusing on a local charity, or a branch of a larger national charity that does good work in your county or town, you can network with those leaders and connect with people you may never meet in your regular course of business.

Your connections, built on a common purpose of advancing a joint mission, will bring in word-of-mouth business, potential partnerships and many other opportunities for synergy.

Giving back isn’t only good for your brand reputation — it is also great for employee retention. Millennials will make up 40% of the workforce by 2020. And nearly two thirds of them say their priority is to make the world a better place. Previous generations may have placed priority on a corner office or fancy job title, but millennials want to provide a value to the community. You can help them do that by implementing a workplace giving program, encouraging them to attract new donors to the cause and recognizing their generosity.

Corporate charitable giving will be recognized by employees, customers, followers of employees and customers on social media, members of non-profit boards and like-minded individuals — all which spells an increase in brand recognition and client load for your business.


This is a guest post by Lexie Lu, a designer and regular blogger at Design Roast.


Lexie LuAbout Lexie Lu

Lexie Lu is a designer and blogger. She actively contributes to the design world and usually has a cup of coffee in close proximity. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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