You’ve seen the offers that promise a certain portion of the proceeds go to charity. One offer making the rounds from a certain glasses company promises a free pair of glasses to a needy child for every pair you buy. One Laptop per Child (OLpC) started out that way.
One thing is for certain: these companies are not charities. They’re businesses out to make money. If they can make their money by making you feel like they are doing something good for the world, so be it.
This is not to say that all companies that do this are just cynical in their approach to capitalism. Some companies really do have a charitable motivation. The thing is, you can never know about the motivations of a company that is making money off of your charitable impulses.
Regardless of motivation, three things about companies that use such tactics are for certain:
1. To do good in the community, they have to make money.
2. Whatever the motive, good in the community is being done.
3. Being seen as a force for good is good for business.
If you want to be seen as a force for good, here are a few ways to make it happen:
Sponsor Local School Programs
If you send a group of underprivileged school kids on a field trip for the rich and famous, you’ll be a hero to those kids, their families, and the school district at large. It is a huge win, and a genuinely good deed that can alter the course of a lot of lives, many of which will be in desperate need of altering.
If you need an example, look no further than the Kirk Chewning Cane Bay Partners. According to his profile:
Kirk Chewning is an International business entrepreneur specializing in startup companies, highly-regarded for his unique ability to drive growth, enhance operational efficiency & compliance, and providing focused leadership.
While this is what he has done for a living for the past 20 years, in at least one small part of the world, he might be better known for work with the Roseway Student Sailing Program. From a Wired article about the Kirk Chewning Cane Bay team:
“We see tremendous value in the life skills this program offers our Virgin Island students,” said Chewning. “Communication, team-building, trust and the value of self-worth are integral components of the week-long lesson plan. That’s why we continue to support the Roseway program and encourage others to do the same.”
You can also watch the video and hear what the kids have to say about the experience. Long term sponsorships tie you to something bigger than the next quarterly report.
Sponsor Local Athletics
Budget cuts have hit your local school’s athletic program, especially if they are not state championship material. There are fewer opportunities for kids to get involved with physical team sports. Pop Warner football and Little League baseball teams are crying out for corporate sponsorships. Uniforms need to be purchased and fields need to be maintained.
Just as a practical matter, uniforms and stadiums are large canvases for your company’s branding and message. Supporting local teams promotes team building, physical health, endurance, and the desire to win. These are all traits you want to see in future employees. Promoting your local business is just a bonus.
Put Local People to Work
In every community, there are people who fall through the economic cracks. These are people who are employable, but who have not found employment for whatever reason. If you want to be a real hero, find them and hire them.
Companies have no shame about asking employees for referrals for prospecting. Why not ask for referrals for job openings? Your company can also sponsor local job fairs. If there are a lot of people in the community unqualified for the jobs you have, sponsor training days or community college programs to help increase local employability.
No matter what your motives, when you sponsor schools, athletics, and put people back to work, you really are a genuine hero. Cape and mask not required.