SBX 14: How Your Business Can Work With Charities

The Small Business Express

Serving customers is great.  But as business owners we have the opportunity to do even more for causes, communities, and people the world-over.  Almost everybody nowadays has a favorite charity (or two, or five) and the question becomes: how can you leverage your position as a business leader to (1) support those charities while (2) not alienating any of your customers?  Not only is it possible, it may even be desirable.  Studies have shown that 90% of customers want businesses to tell them what causes they’re involved in.  With the right plan in place, “cause marketing” (as it is not-so-ceremoniously called) can be much just as effective as a high-priced advertising campaign.  But before you start bombarding customers with “hey, wanna donate?” it helps to decide the exact strategy you’re going to take.  As with most things, a little planning goes a long way.

In this episode of The Small Biz Express podcast we discuss:

  • Gary and Mike’s charities of choice, plus all the statistics you’d ever want to know
  • How supporting a cause can give you a slight (but powerful) competitive advantage
  • Telling the story of your involvement in a way that is both meaningful and non-manipulative
  • Some DOs and DON’Ts of collecting money electronically (see the show notes)
  • The grocery store and Petsmart strategy that works wonders for getting donations
  • A variety of different events you can hold (if that’s more your style)
  • Gary’s simple publicity strategy to make sure people know about them
  • Mike’s strategy of making virtual offers to nail down donations

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Decide what type of fundraiser you’re going to do.  Integrating a fund-raiser with your business is far more effective if it doesn’t disrupt the flow of business.  Translation: if it’s something you’re excited about, your customers will be excited about it.  Three popular methods (that we discuss in this episode) are (1) asking customers for donations, (2) holding out-of-business events, and (3) making offers, such as pro-bono services or discounted purchasing opportunities.

  2. Ask and advertise.  No matter what function you use to raise funds, nobody will know how to get involved unless you ask.  The ask is your opportunity to connect with customers on a deeper level by telling your story and sharing your WHY.  Some customers will be thrilled to support you, others will not be, but even the ones that aren’t will respect what you’re doing if you ask the right way.  Don’t be afraid to do a little advertising either, especially the free stuff like signage on your website and/or store.  Of course your local media is always looking for something to write about and your story is a welcome change of pace from the negative happenings of the world.

  3. Preparation and execution.  You have your WHY, your WHAT, and your HOW.  Now it’s just a matter of showing up.  Follow-thru is always important, but if you’re making promises to people over a charity, make sure to hold yourself to the highest standard of doing so.  If this is your first time attempting something like this, don’t be surprised if you learn (quickly) through trial and error.  Correct and continue.  If your efforts are truly for the good of other people then there’s no way you can fail.  And if your execution is below your standard, you’ll be that much sharper when you try again.


Links and Resources Discussed in this Episode

  1. These stats prove the power of cause marketing.  So much so that you might be thinking “Whoa.  I wasn’t thinking of doing this before… but NOW I am.”  Yes.  Yes you are. (

  2. Mike’s charity of choice.  Front Row Foundation gives people with terminal illnesses an opportunity to be celebrities at their event of choice.  PS. Front Row is always looking for qualified recipients.  (

  3. Gary’s charity of choice.  Kiva is one of the most unique charities in the world in that the money you give them almost always comes back to you.  Outstanding.  (

  4. Stu McLaren’s charity, which is referenced in the show.  Stu is co-founder of Wishlist Member and does a fantastic job of integrating his charity with this internet-based business.  (

  5. The ultimate charity page site.  No matter what cause you’re trying to support, let these people do the money collecting and distribution for you.  They’re reliable.  They’re the industry leader.  And at 10%, they’re also turning over the majority of donations directly to your charity.  (


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