How to create a give-back program without breaking the bank: the keys are to have the right intentions and the right partners.
- Choose the right cause – it is optimal to choose a cause that naturally aligns with your product or service because it will resonate with your customers. If the cause is in line with what your business does, that’s perfect because the customer already cares about the subject and sees the value in it.
- Timing – If you have a cause in mind as you start your business, that’s great because the cause, intertwined with the business’s product or service, can be the brand you introduce to the world. For existing businesses who are looking to create more meaning and purpose for their customers and employees, and differentiate themselves at the same time, developing a give-back program is a fabulous way to get there.
- Pick your strategic partners wisely – remember that you are probably not an expert in, for example, food scarcity, the impact of poverty in your community, [insert cause], but the amazing thing is that there are people who are experts. You will need the help of a social organization with boots on the ground, so you need to find those people and work together! But, take your time and chose a partner whose image and mission fit with yours.
- You’ve picked your partner, now what? – Create a contract that spells out your deal; you can call this a strategic partnership. This document should outline the type of assistance you need from your strategic partner and it should outline what goods, services, or resources you will provide in return. Be prepared to listen to your strategic partner and follow their lead for recommendations on how to provide a service your partner can use best. Your partner knows better because they understand the needs of the population you are trying to serve with your give-back.
- Market and promote with permission and authenticity – You and your partner must agree on the messaging each of you will or may use to promote the give-back program and strategic partnership. As the business owner, you cannot just market your program however you want, you have to have the approval of your partner. Further, be mindful about promoting your program authentically as opposed to shamelessly milking it, i.e. tell the story of how you came to your cause and why. Do not make the message entirely about you, your business, and your generosity. Focus on the facts, for instance, tell exactly what you did and what you accomplished, and the message should remain that there is more to do, here’s how you, the customer, can do more to help.
- Get your employees on board – Ideally, your employees should have a part in determining the cause for your giveback and they should have the opportunity to do some hands-on work within the program. You want this program to be part of your culture and a reason why people want to work for you. You want your employees to be proud of it, talk about it, participate in it, all of which make your impact to the cause even greater. The Horizon Media’s Finger on the Pulse study shows that 81% of millennials expect companies to publicly pledge to be good corporate citizens. A separate 2015 Cone Communications study found that 62% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.
- Start small – Build your program organically and recognize that you don’t have to destroy your bottom line to make a difference. Do what your business can handle, and work closely with your partner to make sure what you are able to do can be used to make the most impact.
- Nothing is perfect – Don’t feel like you have to wait until it’s perfect to launch your program. Just as your business evolves, your give-back program will, too. Learn as you go, tweak as needed, remain open to new ideas and different ways of implementing your program.
Remember, the statistics don’t lie:
- 81% of millennials expect their preferred businesses to communicate an impactful purpose and to benefit their community, or on a larger scale, society, in a meaningful way, see Neilson Global Corporate Sustainability Report.
- 66% of all people interviewed said they were willing to pay extra for more sustainable brands, see Neilson Global Corporate Sustainability Report.
- 73% of millennials said they are willing to pay extra for more sustainable brands, see Neilson Global Corporate Sustainability Report.
- 77% of consumers believe it is important for companies to be socially responsible. See GoodMustGrow.com.
- 70% of young workers want to work for a company that is committed to the community, see GoodMustGrow.com.