While CFOs are busily closing the books on 2014, it’s that time of year again to get in last-minute charitable giving. End-of-year donations may be great for an organization’s accounting department, but they can offer much deeper rewards for companies that are willing to invest in a thoughtful strategy.
Giving to nonprofits offers the perfect opportunity to cash in on tangible triple-bottom-line values, and when a company has integrity with its core values, it has a much more powerful story to tell. Actively demonstrating the company’s mission through strategic charitable giving or in-kind donations gives marketers the much coveted hook they need to demonstrate the authenticity today’s audiences are looking for. How and why a company chooses to give charitably says far more about a brand than messaging based on features and benefits.
Don’t be mistaken: strategic giving isn’t just about generating good PR and great organic content. Sure, there are plenty of PR and content gems hidden in a sound giving strategy, but these are only the periphery. The heart of a good giving strategy lies in aligning the company’s mission with its giving behavior. This is what audiences really want to see.
To craft a truly engaging, authentic story, however, companies need to look closely at the organizations they’re supporting. Specifically, how do they impact the environment and the local community?
In other words, organizations need to put their money where their story is. And they need to choose nonprofit organizations that make a real, quantifiable impact.
Say, for example, a tax e-filing service company has based its business model around helping small businesses go paperless during tax season. The triple-bottom-line benefit of their services is clear: Their tools help reduce business-paper waste and carbon footprint. This, then, is a key part of the story — providing tools to improve environmental sustainability.
With environmental responsibility identified as the company’s story, choosing the right charities and organizations to support is fairly simple. A mix of nationally known accreditations, such as the Green Business Bureau and Green America membership, would bolster the brand’s story of commitment to sustainability. But to truly apply its mission to the triple bottom line, the brand should also look to support environmental nonprofits that are making an impact in their own backyard — organizations like West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.
Giving to local organizations that are aligned with the company’s mission closes the gap between financial, environmental and social/local responsibility. And it creates a powerful narrative.
Telling that story to audiences isn’t difficult, but again, telling it effectively does require strategy. Blaring through a bullhorn about the generosity of your company’s giving strategy can come across as self-serving, and will likely turn audiences off. The solution to this is simple: Rather than making the story about the brand and its giving strategy, position the story about the organization, or cause, that’s being supported. Write journalistic pieces about the organization; syndicate press releases to help audiences understand why the cause is important. Incentivize customers to engage with the organization as well. In short: Brands should be genuine advocates for the causes they’re supporting.
When a company’s charitable giving story is centered around the causes and organizations it’s supporting, and why these are important, the fact of the company’s charitable donation becomes a subtle, yet underlying detail — a detail that won’t go unnoticed by the audience.
In today’s marketplace, there’s a nonprofit organization to support just about every cause under the sun. Giving to a large, national nonprofit like American Red Cross is a great opportunity for companies whose missions are tied to universal humanitarian and/or community values. Targeting niche, hyper-local nonprofits, such as Well House or Kids’ Food Basket, can add impact and context to a giving strategy.
How will your company tell a more powerful story through charitable giving this year?