Do you have tips for aligning my business with a charitable cause in a way that helps grow my personal brand?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.
1. Join Forces for an Event
Pinpoint nonprofits in your industry and collaborate on a fundraiser or other event. Assuming your areas of interest overlap, you’ll raise your own visibility among prospective clients while simultaneously giving back to the community.
2. Fundamental Beliefs
As the person behind your business, your vision and growth are intertwined. Explore are the fundamental values and beliefs that drive you each day. Is it health, community, natural living, giving or something else entirely? Work with charities who support those underlying values to develop your personal brand even further.
3. The Match Needs to Be Perfect
Do your homework. Make sure the charity and your business (and even your personal brand) are all in alignment. Whether you serve the same demographic (women, for example) or are addressing a similar issue (the environment, say), charitable partnerships work best when there is already some overlap in place.
4. Be Completely Genuine
Be sincere about supporting a charitable cause, and affiliate your business with those that are meaningful and relevant. For instance, if you’re in an entertainment business, you may want to support a local arts program. Your personal brand will inevitably benefit as a byproduct of any genuine charitable activity.
Michael Tolkin, Merchant Exchange
5. What Causes Do Your Consumers Believe In?
Ask your customers what causes they believe in and contribute to those. I once provided a consulting offer that donated 25 percent of their fee to the charity and/or cause of their choice. This effectively enabled my customers to donate (when they wouldn’t have otherwise), while simultaneously creating goodwill for my personal brand.
6. What Is Your Story?
Just because you know why your charity of choice is in alignment with your company, does your audience know? Share your background story about how the charity relates to your business online and in person.
It needs to be genuine and authentic, not random. For example, if your company is in the real estate space, then Habitat for Humanity might work. Unless there’s a tie-in, it will seem like a mismatch.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Personal
If you aren’t responding to a personal belief that you should be doing something about a particular charitable cause, anything you do can come off as pure public relations. But if you choose a cause you’re really passionate about – something you would be supporting anyhow – it’s going to align with your brand. A personal brand has to mostly be about who you are for real. It can’t just be business.
9. Choose a Charity That Speaks To You
The best way to align your business with a charitable cause is to choose something that you truly care about. Your values will dictate which charity you align with, and chances are that your customers share your core values. That means they’ll also see eye to eye when it comes to your cause.
10. Engage Your Customers
Ethical bribes work wonders. For example, we’ve asked our Facebook fans to leave a comment on our Wall, and in exchange, we’ll donate a dollar per comment to a named charity. It gets people involved with our brand and it boosts our reputation, all the while helping a worthwhile cause.
Nicolas Gremion, Paradise Publishers
11. Can You Actually Make a Difference?
Pick a cause you truly care about and work hard to make it better. It may take time, but people will notice and give credit where it’s due. Don’t try to do a lot of little things — focus on one central cause you care about and try to do something great for it. It will help your recipient as much as it will help you.
12. Make Selections Carefully
There are so many charities out there that have a very bad reputation, whether it’s for spending too much money or not being true to their word. Make sure to first do your research and align your brand with a charity that holds a positive standing with the public.
13. Looking Back to Move Forward
To what do you owe your personal success? Look to your past. Could it be your high school or college experiences? If so, you should support educational causes. Was there an adult figure of family member that made a great impact on you? Consider mentoring programs. Did a disease or disorder change your life profoundly? Support medical development. Let your past guide your future.
14. Don’t Get Distracted
Unless your personal brand is your business, question whether or not taking such an action in your business is in the business’ best interest and not just your own. It’s a mistake to use your business as a platform for personal promotion. If that’s your goal, you’re probably in the wrong business, and you should take some time to reflect on your goals — is this business the best vehicle for me?