Marketing tip #57: Charitable dollars are marketing dollars

97121298 I believe that every business has a responsibility to give back. No matter where you practice your trade — there's a community that makes it possible.  To not share your time, talents and treasures is irresponsible and short-sighted.

I honestly think most companies share that belief and serve their communities well.

At MMG, that's why we started the Adopt a Charity program several years ago.  We also make cash donations, serve on boards and volunteer for the charities that matter to us.

That's not just because we're good people.  It's because it's smart business.  And here's the part of the message that makes people uncomfortable.

There's nothing wrong with a business benefiting from the good they do.  In fact…every charitable dollar you spend is actually a marketing dollar.

You wouldn't buy equipment that didn't help your business grow or spend money on computer software that didn't serve your clients better.  So why should your charitable gifts be any different?  

Every dollar or hour you donate is a business asset.  So spend them wisely.  If you're feeling charitable, make sure you get the maximum bang for each buck.  Here are some strategies to keep in mind.

It's better to give big to a few:  Don't get caught up in the "but we don't want to say no to anyone" trap.  If you give a little bit to everyone, you end up being one of 42 logos on the back of a 5K run t-shirt.  

It's far better to be the presenting sponsor or one of an elite group of sponsors.  You'll get a lot more exposure and you're giving enough money to actually make a difference.  Writing 100 checks for $25 is a waste of your efforts and isn't really impacting any of the non profits you support.

You won't get what you don't ask for:  When you're donating your money or your talents, don't be shy.  Ask for the recognition that will benefit your business.  

Want your logo on the greens at the charity golf tournament — ask for it.  Want to have your efforts recognized at the next board meeting — ask for it.  Want the celebrity host at the auction to appear at a private client only cocktail party before the event — ask for it.

Think about how you can leverage your donation.  What will cost the non-profit very little but provide your business with a boost?

Be creative in the perks:  There won't always be an opportunity to have your logo plastered on an event or get naming rights.  After all, you might not have $25K to donate. Even if your charitable gifts are modest — you can still enjoy some marketing benefit.

An introduction to an influential board member, a thank you from the podium, or four tickets to the fancy dinner/dance (two for you and two for your best client).  Don't think that only the big donations can garner a return on that investment.

Everyone of us should give back.  It's part of being a good neighbor, a good business and a good corporate citizen. But, there's no reason it can't be a win/win situation!

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