Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Business of Charitable Giving - PART I

Business or Pleasure?
Why not BOTH?  Just because you are running a business to earn a living doesn't mean that giving to charity has to be a one-way trip out of your pocket.  There are many ways that you can work charitable donations or time in to your business model.  It's a win-win scenario!

The key to selecting a charity to support is knowing your target market.  You can create a symbiotic relationship with a charity where the host is a shared target market.  This topic will be covered in two parts:
  • Part I: Selecting a Charity
  • Part II: Selecting a Manner of Support


Choose a charity related to your product.
You should choose a charity that is related to your product because it increases the chances that you will share a target market.  If you sell upscale handbags, does it make more sense for you to donate to a shelter for the homeless or to donate to the silent auction of a charitable business luncheon?  I've been to the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Peel "Women in Peel" luncheons where there are always professional suits with custom tailoring, laptop bags and ladies briefcases amongst the auction items.  (It's my favourite lunch of the year!)

Here are some brainstorming examples for you.

First example: Cards.  I make cards and scrapbook embellishments.  My primary target market is card-givers and my secondary market is scrapbookers.  To market the social connection aspect of my business that card-givers thrive on, I could donate cards to the Sick Kids hospital or nursing homes.  As a random-act-of-kindness, these cards will be appreciated and remembered, especially by those who seem to need more and more encouragement with the passage of time.  Families will see my cards and perhaps think of me the next time they need to send something unique and memorable.

The preceeding is still a pretty general market (unless I marketed especially to the very young or very old!).  So, I have further sub-defined my target market by my style.  What kind of people would like my style?  My style is neat and tidy and practical for mailing ease.  That means people who like sleek, streamlined designs or who adore organization and order are also a key segment of my target market.  In addition, these people do not live close to loved ones because of the mailing ease aspect of my cards because someone who hand-delivers their cards does not mind as much if the card is bulky and awkward.  This market might include minimalists, curators, architectural historians and professional organizers, and people who travel for work.

Another subdivision of my target market are pet lovers.  I have chosen to support the Southern Ontario Animal Rescue as my primary charity, so I need to be seen by the pet lover segment of my market.  I donate my cards to be used by the charity in their adoption kits as thank-you cards and (this year) holiday cards.  I get exposure to people whom I know either have pets or appreciate the charity.  I try to keep a few animal related cards and embellishments in my shop for that segment.  I also host workshops as a fundraiser for this charity.  I pick up on-the-spot sales of supplies after the workshops while still drumming up funds for the charity.

Second example: Toys.  If you make toys, your target market is children (or their parents, rather).  You could donate toys to Sick Kids hospitals, Ronald McDonald house, shelters, your local doctor's or dental office (I've seen a few with a small "play area") in the waiting area, even the local gym's day care (especially if you frequent the gym quite a lot and can see what toys the children gravitate towards).  You might even further subdefine: do you sell outdoor toys or indoor toys?  Travel toys?  Pet toys?

Third example: Clothing.  Your target market consists of people who wear your clothes and accessories.  Donate your clothing to silent auctions where your target market is in attendance.  Have you heard of "Dress for Success"?  It's an international organization that helps women enter or re-enter the workforce.  Maybe when they do land the job, they will come back to you with their new income stream for some more attire.

Fourth Example: Bath and Body.  Bath and Body samples make great items for charitable event swag bags and silent auctions too.  What about giving some soap or lotion to a "hard on the hands" frequent washing type charity, like an animal shelter or a doctor's office?  Are the cross-walking guards in your area part of a volunteer's association made up of mommies?  If mommies are your target market, give them some lipbalm for the long hours outdoors.  Again, you must narrow it down by your target market.  Are they vegan?  Are they anti-chemical?  Do you make soap for cleansing or as favours?  Or do you cater to a certain sense of humour?

Fifth Example: Eco-Friendly.  Again, a silent auction event is a great venue for giving, either as a feature item or as something in the swag bags.  Some eco-friendly charities are national and some are global.  What about finding a local school or highschool where an eco-friendly curriculum or extra-curriculum is just getting a foothold?  Get involved with it.  Can’t find one?  Pioneer one!  When I watch The Weather Network in the mornings before work, sometimes they do a small spotlight on schools foraying in to the environmental movement.  Classrooms look for ways to reduce their environmental footprint, plant trees, or have educational guest speakers to teach them.

Choose the size of the charity.
Selecting the charity by the market it reaches is one thing.  You should also think of its size.  Depending on how you are able to contribute, a national or global charity might be too large relative to you.  You must decide if you want to reach volumes of people, or a specific selection of people.

I chose a local charity because I like to be close to my target market in case they want to attend my workshops. I also chose a small charity because I wanted to feel like my contribution would make a difference.

Knowing your target market is key.
Different charities reach different target markets.  Which one is yours?  For more information on discerning your target market, here are a handful of good reads about target markets or marketing in general:
The lesson is: Put your product where it counts.  People are tactile.  Seeing, touching, and experiencing your product is the best advertising you can get.

Join me next time for "The Business of Charitable Giving - PART II - Selecting a Manner of Support

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