So you want to implement a give back model to a product you offer, or maybe to all of the products you offer, but you don’t know where to start. I’ve been there. There are so many businesses giving back to various community organizations, non-profits, social causes, and more, but how do you choose what’s right for your business? And where do you start?
Consider your personal morals.
Make a list of your beliefs and stances on various social issues. Obviously, this list can get long very quickly. I think we’d all agree that we believe in and want clean water for all, but is this on the top of your list? Don’t be afraid to be honest about what is most important to you. Perhaps it is clean water, or community clean up projects, development and healing for human trafficking survivors, or programs related to adaptation for refugees living in the United States.
If you had all of the money in the world to donate, what are the causes you would donate to?
List them all, and then choose a few that are the most important to you.
Do some research.
Once you’ve identified some causes you feel strongly about, do some research. What organizations exist that are providing solutions to the issues you’re passionate about? You can be specific here: if you want to support a clean ocean initiative, you might find dozens of organizations doing this, but is there one that resonates more with you because of their history, their specific plan of action, or because of their geographical location?
Another important part of the research process is identifying the legitimacy of the organizations. Find reviews, impact reports, and any other information that will help you determine the tangible impact, not just the intention, of the organization. This should help you narrow down to one organization to support, and I suggest starting there, with one.
You can always add additional organizations to partner with afterward, but starting with one will help you develop a strong relationship with them first.
If you want help with the research part of this process, I suggest getting in contact with Yellow Co. member, Rachael Parker-Chavez of Defining Good. Rachael is an expert in working with small business owners to create specific social good action plans, and connecting them with worthy organizations!
Identify a specific need of the organization.
Something I’ve learned from working with nonprofits and similar organizations is that many times, donations are given that aren’t necessarily needed. For example, I once held a clothing drive for a local teen homeless shelter, only to find out upon dropping off the clothes, that their lobby had been taken over by unopened bags of clothing that they didn’t need at the time. Instead of assuming they needed clothing, I could have asked what they needed and I would have found out that they actually were in desperate need of toiletries that month and could hold off on accepting clothing for several months. Lesson learned.
It helps to create a relationship and a partnership with your give back organization, not a one-way charity system.
Ask them what specific needs they have. Is it a monetary sum to pay for certain expenses, or a new piece of equipment, or meals? Is it matching a donation of your product with every sale (i.e. “one-for-one”)? Knowing their specific needs will help you not only measure your business’ impact on their programs, but it will also show your customers you’re serious about the partnership. When you’re able to explain to your community of clients or buyers what exactly their purchase is helping fund, they’re all the more likely to want to support you, as well as that organization.
Foster the partnership and relay the message to your customers.
Keep your partner organization in the loop with what you’re doing. Give them materials to also promote the relationship and share how your business will be impacting them. This will help to merge your audiences, or at least familiarize both audiences with your part in supporting their mission. As for relaying the message of your give back model to your customers, keep it simple, but remember: transparency and clear communication are key.
I strongly suggest sharing why you chose to support this group as often as possible. Share their mission and how it relates to your brand or personal mission of contributing to the greater good. I also recommend releasing a monthly, quarterly, or yearly report to your customer base with the amount of money or product that was donated, and how that impacted their organization. And the last detail that can’t be overlooked, is thanking your customers. Because of their choice to support you, they are in turn supporting a better and brighter future.
Photos by Tory Putnam