There are many businesses that struggle with choosing and incorporating community service into their business models. Some have dabbled, and really gotten nothing in return for what they have felt was a monumental effort. So why try again? Why try at all? The key is to find a philanthropic way to contribute that resonates with your company’s core values or mission.
Proactively choosing the right service area for your business is important. If you don’t choose the right one, you will get limited mileage from the effort. I propose that you start with isolating what issue your business will be addressing, and why:
1.) what type of community service
donations of money (best for profitable companies)
donations of time (this can be an alternative to donating a percentage of gross profit)
donations of skills or products (similar to donations of time)
4.) how it fits into the company's core values
What is your core business?
What is your key branding message?
When deciding how this evolves for your company, there should be a natural tie between what you do and the cause you want to help. This will then naturally align with your brand, be easier to promote, and also forward your business by being aligned with your business’ passions.
Your mission doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be sincere. The strongest community service based campaigns have a narrative that you can follow. That narrative resonates with the employees, the community, and the people on the receiving end.
Success of the endeavor counts on buy-in. Buy-in from employees, buy-in from public, buy-in from clients. The more the message of your charity resonates with the message of your business, the more effective this is.
For New England Design & Construction, the community service involvement makes our employees feel good. They love being able to contribute their skills and passions in a way that makes a difference in people’s lives. The community becomes emotionally involved as well, because they can see the differences being made in peoples’ lives. Our clients love to hear the stories.
If you have these things, promoting the charitable contribution is easy.
The better narrative you can tell, the more it will resonate with people. The more the message resonates with the circles your business travels in, the more buzz you’ll stir up.
So how can you make sure this happens? There are definite steps you can take before your project, during the project, and after it has been completed.
Before the project:
During the project:
After the project:
For us, the most successful way of doing this is to really document the whole process and share it with others; getting professional photography of the transformations we create are key. People want to see this. They want to feel good about the work they’re doing. These photos get shared around by everyone involved, and all hands that touch the project feel good about it.
When you share these photos with others, and tell the narratives behind it, people are floored. They are moved by what you’re doing, and they want to share it too. Clients love to tell this story to the people that they know, because they might love the project you did for them, but it’s easier to talk about someone else’s transformation than your own.
It becomes easy to pitch a story to a magazine. For example- Qualified Remodeler featured our company in the article Skills to Help with a beautiful spread and interview about our community service involvement. They heard the story, and were moved by it. They saw photographs of the family’s reactions. When emotions are involved, you get the maximum mileage out of your marketing message.
Additionally, there is other coverage to be gained, like awards that can then be applied for. Our chapter of NARI was recognized at the CotY ceremony for NARI National in Scottsdale in April for the most recent Room to Dream project that we were involved in. We were awarded the Community Service Award.
We’ve dabbled in other community service efforts. For our 10 year anniversary, we dedicated ourselves to completing 10 charitable acts. We did some interesting things, but nobody really cared. At the end of the day, these efforts didn’t resonate with anyone. But our Room to Dream projects resonated not only with our community, but were a direct reflection of our brand’s identity and mission statement of “Lifting Spirits With Spaces”.
Our brand identity is reflected in the community service involvement that we continue to have. So my main advice? Make it intentional. Plan it out. Align it with your business.
Kara Wilson is the Brand Manager for New England Design & Construction. She has successfully be involved in a few projects with NEDC and Room to Dream, their company’s favored charity. You can also find her on EM NARI’s PR Committee.