As many of you may know, I’m the founder and president of a nonprofit, animal-rescue organization. I started Starlight Outreach and Rescue in October of 2017 to honor the life of Emma Starlight Hyde, who volunteered with me at our local animal shelter as a kitten foster. Every year our rescue helps save the lives of hundreds of animals in our community. We rely 100% on donations to run our operations and to grow, we’ve sought the support of local businesses for everything from donations, to space to host events, and more.
So what’s in it for a business to support a nonprofit like mine?
You might be surprised that partnering with and/or donating to a nonprofit pays off for your business in many ways beyond just the good feeling you get when you support an organization whose mission you believe in.
Employee Engagement is a hot topic these days, but what does it mean? It’s basically the strength of the connection and caring employees feel toward the place where they work. Research shows that when your employees are highly engaged, it positively impacts every aspect of your business, including the customer experience, profitability, employee health, safety, employee retention, and more. Today’s employees, especially Millennials and Gen Z, feel much more connected to companies that give back than to those who don’t. By getting involved in charitable endeavors, whether it’s hosting or supporting adoption events for your local animal shelter or a fun-run fundraiser for your city’s children’s hospital, you’re showing that your business cares about more than just the products and services you sell and you’ll improve your team’s engagement.
The Law of Reciprocity states that when someone does something nice for you, you’ll feel a deep-down need to do something nice for them in return and in fact you’ll usually return the “favor” with one twice as nice. A good charitable partner will live by the Law of Reciprocity and will give back to your business as a thank you for supporting them. Some of the ways charities will give back include social media posts, news releases, public thank yous at events or on their website, directing their customers or clients to your business, or making your business their exclusive source for the products and services they use. However, not all charities are savvy about reciprocity and I’ve heard from more than one retailer that despite their support of a charity, the charity does not reciprocate. There are two ways to solve this problem. The first is to be sure to choose your charities wisely. The second is to spell out agreements in advance, for how you’ll support each other throughout the year.
Increased Marketing Reach
No matter what social media platforms you engage in, you only have one audience for each. Whether you have 100 social media followers or 10,000, wouldn’t it be great to double or triple that with little or no effort? When you have charitable partners, your “reach” expands exponentially. By sharing your charitable partner’s social media posts and having them share yours, you’ll both reach a bigger audience than you would on your own. Additionally, if your charitable partner is highly aligned with your business, for example if you’re a groomer and you partner with a local Poodle rescue, you’ll find that their followers will likely not only begin to follow your business, but may also become customers of your business, especially if the charity directly promotes and supports your business.
If you’re in business, you probably know how expensive advertising can be, even if you’re just trying to buy an ad in a small, local newspaper. You also know that for advertising to be effective, it has to be consistent – which means you have to keep running ads before they really start getting seen. When you support a charity, every event, promotion, and program you participate in with them is an opportunity for a photo and news release that you can send to your local newspapers and magazines. If you’re lucky, and your program is unique enough, you might even get television and radio coverage.
Increase Your Image as a Good Citizen of the Community
When it comes to your business having a great reputation in the community, that’s just not something you can buy. The bottom line is that people like to do business with businesses that give back. Although giving back sometimes means writing a check, that’s not the only way you can show your community that you’re a good citizen. Participating in community events is just as important. Some of the things you can do include sponsoring a youth sports team, collecting food for a local food bank, having a donation box on your front counter where people can give to your charitable partner, or donating a portion of your sales on a certain day or for a certain product to your charitable partner.
Increased Customer Loyalty and Sales
All of the opportunities I’ve described above have the potential to increase your sales. However, there are other ways having a charitable partner can keep customers loyal and keep the sales coming in. Many customers are only as loyal as the best price they can find for a product. When you choose a charitable partner that aligns with your customers’ values, it gives customers a reason to do business with you beyond the price of your products or services. For example, knowing that you give a percentage of every bag of pet food sold to a local rescue, or the fact that you allow a local shelter to show their animals in your store will put your business in a positive light with your customers and they’ll likely become more invested in your products and services because they want to support your mission. You can also help increase your own sales by providing your charitable partner’s followers and recipients a reason to come into your business. For example, you could create a coupon or coupon book for new pet parents for items they’d need when they adopt a new pet from your local animal shelter. Finally, hosting events for your charitable partner at your business gives you the potential to increase new sales by bringing in people who haven’t done business with you before.
Many business owners don’t realize that some or all of the donations they make to non-profit organizations could be tax deductible. In general, if you make a donation to a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, you can likely deduct the donation. However, always seek the advice of a tax preparer or accountant before making the donation or deducting the donation. Your business structure, whether you received something in return for your donation, and other factors can impact how you categorize the donation. Additionally, these factors can also impact where you list the donation on your tax return and how much you can deduct.