This month, we’re braving a controversial topic. One that never fails to evoke emotion and divide the marketing community: is it ethical to ‘give back’ and leverage this contribution for business growth?
Our view? Absolutely.
Since it’s good for the soul to give back regardless, why not do it in a way that shows your business in a positive light? The way we see it, there’s no harm in being smart about charitable contributions.
We’re well aware that for some, putting the words ‘giving back’ and ‘leveraging’ in the same sentence seems like a contradiction. But hear us out…
Barriers to giving back
We’re all good people (most of the time) and we rely on our strong moral compass to guide our business dealings. Naturally we want to help others and generally ‘do good’ in the world, so why aren’t more SMEs stepping up to the plate in terms of charitable contributions and community support?
Well, it’s complicated. Running an SME is challenging – especially in its start-up phase. As much as we’d all love to help, allotting time/resources/dollars to a cause – no matter how worthy – cuts into the bottom line at a time when every little bit counts. Reality bites.
There’s enough going on with building your business culture, managing the team, exceeding client expectations, remaining competitive, paying overheads, and dealing with insurance, accounts, tax and legals. Oh and you also have to make a profit. Fun and games.
It seems like a tall order to throw a charity donation or pro bono job into the mix.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.
What if ‘giving back’ could be integrated into your marketing strategy? What if by contributing to a good cause you could help your business grow?
A little disclaimer before we continue: there is always the possibility that your contribution will not be leveraged as you’d envisaged. It’s important to accept that you may not get what you’d hoped from it.
How much can you spare?
When we talk about giving back, it doesn’t have to be in the form of cold hard cash. Anyone can write a cheque, but we’ve come to believe the most effective way to give back is ‘in kind’ – by donating your expertise and talent.
Every SME out there provides a service or product to clients. They have an area of expertise that others are willing to pay for. One way of ‘giving back’ is by donating your product or service.
5 tips for effective, respectful leveraging
- Choose an organisation that needs you most. If you construct patios or pour driveways, for example, you could offer your services to a charity that provides emergency housing for those in need.
- Be clear about your intentions. Tell them you’d like to leverage your partnership and how you intend to do this. If the first organisation you approach isn’t on board, maybe another will be.
- Be upfront about timelines. With pro bono work, you may not be able to dedicate the same resources/hours you would to your highest-paying client. Don’t feel bad about this. Just communicate when you’ll be able to realistically deliver.
- Give them your best. As with any other client, your non-profit work should be used to increase your business profile and demonstrate how good you are at what you do.
- Share the good news. Make a case study of the project, include it in your portfolio, share it across your social networks or use it to generate PR for both the charity and your business. Win and win.
Mutual admiration society
One final thing to remember (and this may help ease your troubled mind) is that charitable organisations are hardly naive about leveraging – far from it. In our experience, they know full well that’s how the game is played. For every anonymous cash donation they receive from a kindly billionaire, there are many charitable partnerships with companies where both parties benefit.
Happy giving (and receiving)!