Geri Stengel

 
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What Small Businesses Need To Know Before They Choose A Cause-Marketing Partner

You’ve heard it before: Cause marketing helps small businesses improve their bottom lines while increasing their visibility in the community. Consumers notice when you show you care.

In fact, successful entrepreneurs start working with nonprofits when when their businesses are just starting. It seems to be good karma.

cause marketing, cause marketing partner, nonprofit, small business ownersThat’s all well and good but how do you, as the owner of a small business, find the right cause to partner with? In a nutshell, you start by knowing your resources and your target market. Then you get to know the potential partners in your community.

Know yourself: What resources can you give to a nonprofit? “Cash” is not the only or even the best answer. Skills, advice or products may be even better:

  • designers can help with branding;
  • attorneys can give  legal advice;
  • a dry cleaner can offer free cleaning for the community theater’s costumes;
  • a photographer can take publicity shots or photos for your website.

Anything you donate, from snacks for volunteers to a fundraising night at your eatery to computer training for staff can be useful.

Know your target demographic: Start with an event or cause that attracts the people who might buy your product or services: pizza and youth sports; day spa and breast cancer; pet shop and no-kill animal shelter. Even the big guys make mistakes in this area so think compatibility-of-purpose through carefully.

Of course, some causes are just good for the community as a whole: schools, health care and, yes, small businesses come to mind. And as a small business owner, what’s good for the community is good for you. So look for community alliances, such as sustainability or “shop local” organizations.

Keep your eye open for causes that might make good partners. You don’t have to wait to be asked. Maybe the nonprofit doesn’t realize how local businesses can help.  

Make it personal. Meet with the nonprofit leaders directly. Tour their facility. Check out their work and how successful they are. Does the organization have a good reputation? When you find a match, lay out a plan that clearly states what you will do and what you will get in exchange. For example, you will provide head shots of the cast for the theater group in exchange for a mention on the program.

Keep it personal. If it’s a fundraiser, attend. If it’s a volunteer clean-up project, show up with staff members, wearing t-shirts with the company logo. Not only will that give a shout to your social responsibility, it will also make sure that you have first-hand information about how it went.

Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, evaluate what you learned, if the partnership worked, if it can be expanded or improved, and if you want to take on other partners.

Want to learn more? Check out Cause Marketing: A Win-Win for Small Businesses and Nonprofits.

Image source: Flickr, based on an image by Mårten Björk