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Giving Back Marketing: Why It’s Good for Your Community and Your Business

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
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‘Tis the season for giving.

Giving back to the community is good for the soul – but does it make sense for small businesses from a marketing and brand-building perspective?

According to a report in Forbes, four out of five Millennials prefer to do business with companies that demonstrate corporate leadership. That sentiment is shared by people in all age groups.

That’s not a surprise to most small business owners. They often build strong ties with the people in their communities by supporting regional organizations in need. Most people consider their local small businesses as the heart and soul of their communities.

If giving back isn’t part of your primary marketing strategy or operations, here are five reasons why it should be.

1. Giving Back Increases Brand Visibility

People notice when businesses give back to the community. They spread the news through word of mouth, in social media posts, and via press coverage (including popular local publications and blogs). All of this activity sends signals that boost your visibility in search engines like Google, making it easier for new people to find your business. This is particularly valuable for startups and new companies wanting to increase visibility quickly.

2. Donations Strengthen the Economy in Your Area

Giving back is a great way to support your local economy – it’s an investment in critical infrastructure that helps raise up a community. For example, if you support local schools, it helps create a more educated and affluent workforce. This will result in smarter consumers with more money to spend on local businesses. Another example: Supporting the local softball team not only gets your business name visibility on jerseys and ball field signage, but it also encourages exercise and healthy habits for life. A healthier community is a more successful one.

“Paying it forward” is more than just a saying – it’s a reality.

3. Your Generosity Can Have a Big Impact on Smaller Organizations

Big-box stores and large corporations tend to focus their giving on larger, national charities. Small businesses are more likely to donate time and money to local organizations that would otherwise be forgotten. A small check, in-kind donation, or gift of employee time can make a big difference for these entities. As an added bonus, the people who work for the charity, those who depend on it, and its volunteers will likely be devoted to your business for life.

4. The Spirit of Giving Builds Strong Bonds with Staff

Employees (especially younger ones) want to feel pride in their work and workplace. Giving back to the community shows that it’s important for you to invest in the community where they — and their families and friends — live. Plus, if you encourage your workers to volunteer their time, it could help build workplace camaraderie. These two factors could be powerful motivators, keeping workers engaged and making it less likely they will think about working elsewhere, improving retention.

5. Paying it Forward Connects You With Local Influencers

Of course, giving should be about supporting an organization you and your employees believe in. Still, when working on a project, small business owners often meet influential community leaders. It’s easy to develop strong, enduring relationships when they’re built on a shared commitment to giving back. Over time, these relationships can provide valuable sources of advice or even referrals to grow your business. Consider it another added benefit of giving back.

Avoid the Business Giving “Ick” Factor

The key to giving back is being completely authentic. Provide support to organizations that you genuinely believe in. Work with a group that complements your small business. For instance, a lumber supplier could donate the wood to an organization that builds homes for the homeless. Or, a restaurant could donate nutritious meals to a nearby food kitchen for people who have fallen on hard times.

If you can’t be thoroughly genuine in your charitable giving — and authentic in your messaging about it — don’t get involved. Giving in bad faith could read as a cheap marketing ploy that could seriously harm your brand's reputation.

If budget allows this holiday season, take a moment to consider charitable giving, and what cause you’d like to make a positive impact on. ‘Tis the season!

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