Businesses are trending towards purpose. Charity demand is skyrocketing as donations dwindle. If you’re a business owner, you’re probably thinking (either practically or theoretically) how you can make a difference and start giving back.  

You might have dabbled with some ‘Charity Of The Year’ partnerships and some staff fundraising efforts but feel like the impact isn’t quite there: for the charity and for your business. 

When done well, donations can not only create a huge and positive impact, but also improve your business’ relationships with customers and employees, improve brand reputation and ultimately lead to longer term business success.

Why do businesses donate to charity?

We won’t beat around the bush, some businesses have giving at the core of their identity and some are aware that having an impact can be good for business. At Views For Change, we believe in truly living your purpose but also understand that you have to start somewhere. 

The reasons for businesses engaging with donations can vary considerably. From an innate desire to give back to those less fortunate to improving brand reputation amongst your audience. Some feel giving back can boost sales as consumers seek more purposeful businesses and others want to build their brand in alignment with good values. 

For most, it is probably a melting pot of all the above. So, we’re going to take a look at some of the key considerations when building donations into your business so you can start making an impact beyond your business.

 1. Establish what’s possible

Sorry to be blunt straight off the bat, but there is no point committing to give a percentage of your profits when you know your business is not turning a profit. 

Establishing what type of donation and where it is activated in your lifecycle is crucial for creating a viable donation strategy as a business. 

We recently looked at some examples of businesses implementing donations into their business model. Here are some of the models we explored: 

  • Buy One, Donate One 
  • Per Sale % Donation 
  • % Revenue Donation Commitment 
  • Specific Product Line % Per Sale Donation 
  • Per Engagement/Action Donation 

If you feel concerned about making commitments at high levels such as % of revenue donations, a good place to start is to think about your key metrics. Ask yourself, what action would you be willing to reward? Is it a sale? Is it an ad click? Also consider your most crucial customer touch points and think about how you can reward these and show your customers you care.

The beauty of rewarding customers with donations is it taps into something different than offers or promotions do. Especially as we are seeing a philanthropic trend during the pandemic (33% consumers strongly agreed in a FutureConsumer.Now survey that they will re-evaluate the things they value most as a result of the pandemic, while more than a quarter say they are already paying more attention to what they consume and what impact it has); donations provide an opportunity to give back and reward your customers. 

2. Choose a charity that aligns with your values, purpose & mission

You started your business to solve a problem. Your values, purpose and mission will reflect this. So it makes sense to align your donations to these pillars of your business. 

It won’t surprise you that your customers and audiences who buy from you will probably care about similar issues to you. 

Examples could be: 

  • A women’s clothing brand supporting a charity that empowers women’s education
  • A beauty brand supporting a charity that fights period poverty 
  • A male grooming brand supporting a charity that supports men’s mental health or prostate cancer research 
  • A stationary company supporting a charity that creates education opportunities for young people 
  • A tech company supporting under-represented groups to learn to code 
  • A baby clothes brand supporting a charity that helps mothers with postnatal depression 
  • A coffee brand supporting a charity that empowers female coffee farmers to own their own businesses
  • A food company supporting food banks

The list goes on…

That being said, a direct link is not always completely necessary. As issues arise, different charities and needs come to the forefront of the public’s consciousness. This is especially true during the covid pandemic. 

But one thing is for sure, you want to support a charity that all your business’ stakeholders can get behind. There is no doubt that you will have personal ties to charities that you want to support and this is great. But as we’ll cover in the next section, you need buy-in from everyone in your organisation so charitable partnerships should make sense to the business as a whole.

3. Engage your stakeholders

You will no doubt consider customer feedback, speak to your teams regularly and engage your stakeholders in most strategic business decisions. We feel the same should be said for embarking on a journey of creating a donations strategy. 

We know that corporate giving improves culture and engagement. We know that customers feel involved and important when we engage them in decision making. We also know that consensus can be a really positive way to make the most impact down the line. 

There is a great opportunity to gather information and start conversations with your stakeholders for something that they will ultimately feel positive about.

4. Consider your entire business cycle

Views For Change was literally born out of this idea. We saw this great trend of companies making donations to causes they cared about on behalf of their customers and users, but there were still opportunities along the customer journey that were not being rewarded with donations. 

As marketeers, we knew that this was fairly untapped in our area and wanted to create a new opportunity for businesses to build donations into their business model at the first engagement they have with potential customers. 

Coming back to our earlier point, why not map your customer and business cycles (or review them if you already have) and think about where you feel the most important engagements happen. What are you willing to reward? 

This could be, in the case of Views For Change, right at the beginning when you’re advertising to customers. It could be at point of sale. It could even be to encourage engagement within your product itself (see Bumble’s example here).

5. Impact Communication

There will be a desire to shout about your donations as soon as possible. We understand that and every donation should be celebrated. However, we feel that impact speaks louder than words. 

Starting from the root question ‘what impact have we had?’, from a position of transparency rather than promotion, will not only encourage your business to ensure the donations strategy is working, viable and doing some real good in the world, but it will actually provide much better and more engaging content to share and shout about. 

Communicating impact in an effective way that consumers understand is vital. Impact reports are great but the information needs to be distilled and clear for consumers to make purchasing decisions. Consider how you can communicate your impact with your audience in the most effective way, from a position of transparency and accountability, not virtue-washing. 

Ready to get donating?

We’ve covered some key considerations when building a donations strategy, which hopefully will be of help. 

For more information about building donations into your advertising campaigns, book a call today.

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Nicola Telford

Nicola Telford

CEO & Co-Founder of Views For Change.

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