If you run a small business, you know how important it is to give back to your community. It’s also okay to admit that it can help your marketing goals and boost your brand. But it’s not as simple as it seems. How can you work nicely with nonprofits and charities so that you all come out ahead?
I am a long-time volunteer coordinator and board member, and I write a blog about school volunteering issues called Fearless Volunteer. I’ve seen the way nonprofits can be beneficial from both sides. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years while working closely with nonprofits.
1. Be proactive. Nonprofits are busy, and those run by volunteers are doubly so. Don’t wait for them to come to you with hat in hand; reach out to your local school or a local nonprofit organization that does work you would like to be a part of. Do your own homework to find out if you feel comfortable with the NPO and support their mission. Another reason to do your research is to ensure they are a registered nonprofit group on the up-and-up.
2. Donate wisely by focusing on events. Nonprofits love good old-fashioned money donations, because they always fit and they always come in the right size. Look for events with sponsorship opportunities for a smart way to donate. Is there a walkathon fundraiser? Sponsor the t-shirts or a banner with your logo. Nonprofits with their acts together will thank you publicly. Make sure you have a nice, high-resolution logo ready if they ask for one!
3. Think outside the donation box. You don’t have to be a top-hat wearing millionaire writing fat checks to donate. Offer your products or (even better) your services. This can apply to any business, no matter what you produce or sell. For example, take our very own BlueTreeDigital; we’ve helped nonprofits with t-shirt design, pro-bono marketing work, and more. Here are some other ideas that can make a big difference:
- Prizes for raffles or walkathon/fun run events: water bottles, pedometers, and gift certificates.
- Ads in directories, programs, or other publications.
- Silent auction items. Gift certificates for your services can give you some great exposure.
- Food and drinks for event volunteers provide a memorable morale booster.
4. Give the group what it really needs. Your donation has to be appropriate. Your charity shouldn’t have to jump through too many hoops to get what they need. Drives for toys, canned food, school supplies, or clothes held at your place of business is a great way to help; but just make sure you actively promote the NPO to your customers or employees, and make sure you’re clear about what’s needed – usually it’s on the group’s web site. Don’t send used coats to a canned food drive!
5. Be patient. You might work with experienced professionals in the nonprofit sector or you might be working with a harried volunteer who took on a thankless task no one else wanted. Volunteers are squeezing in hours away from work and family obligations, so be mindful of their time. Also remember that volunteers have a wide range of backgrounds and skill sets. Things, frankly, may not be perfect. It might take longer for volunteers to respond to an email, or a logo might not be reproduced perfectly. Take it all in stride.
Helping area charities and nonprofits is simply the right thing for businesses to do. It can also get your business some helpful exposure in your community. Keep these tips in mind as you build successful partnerships with your local charitable organizations—and you both can enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship.