How to Support a Charity in a Meaningful Way
28 January 2015 at 9:03 am
If done right, a company using philanthropy and supporting a cause can work to capture the hearts, minds and emotions of its target audience whilst also boosting its profile, increasing its sales and creating positive PR, writes communications specialist Dora Nikols.
Companies have long used philanthropy and supporting a cause as a public relations vehicle in an effort to garner positive feelings among the public and the media.
As a business strategy it makes a lot of sense when you consider that 84 per cent of consumers would switch brands to one that supports a good cause if price and quality were similar according to the 2013 Cone Social Impact Study.
If done right it can work to capture the hearts, minds and emotions of your target audience whilst also boosting your profile, increasing your sales and creating great PR.
There are many corporate philanthropists and companies that excel at their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities because they work hard to find a cause that is the best fit between its mission, objectives, capabilities and the needs and wants in the marketplace.
An example of a company that does this very well is Avon. They are positioned as “the company for women” and its decade-long support of breast cancer has certainly assisted in securing and affirming this position.
Their corporate vision is “to be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women globally. Our dedication to supporting women touches not only beauty – but health, fitness, self-empowerment and financial independence”.
Since 1993 Avon has started ‘The Avon Breast Cancer Crusade’ generating over $65 million from sales of pink ribbon products with total net funds raised worldwide exceed $300 million.
Avon’s long-term commitment to beat breast cancer has created a meaningful connection to the cause and has benefited with authentic PR.
Australian philanthropist John Kinghorn is another great example of supporting a charity in a meaningful way. Kinghorn who made a massive $650 million after the sale of RAMS Home Loans has given away nearly half his wealth, which equates close to $300 million from the Kinghorn family foundation.
Instead of just indiscriminately signing a cheque to a charity as a bold and obvious PR gesture and walking away he has financially and emotionally committed to his cause to become the perfect model of corporate responsibility – here’s why:
1. Choose only a few social issues to support.
The Kinghorn family foundation has a narrow focus on education, medical research and poverty alleviation. Based on these specific areas the Kinghorn Cancer Centre only dedicates its energy to the alleviation of cancer.
Choosing only a few causes with a clear focal point for corporate giving actually increases chances that the company (foundation) can actually have an impact as resources are focused and multiple initiatives are aimed at one cause.
Once selected, committing wholeheartedly to your cause ensures it is not viewed as a marketing or PR exercise. It will also be important to measure and report on the outcomes you have achieved, such as the number of people treated at the cancer centre.
2. Choose issues that are of concern in the communities where you do business whilst giving your visibility.
This will improve the credibility of “standard” statements in annual reports and sales catalogues such as, “we believe in giving back to the communities where we do business.”
The Kinghorn foundation’s focus on cancer is something most people care about and many have been affected by. The naming rights to the centre bring visibility to the Kinghorn name as does the ‘Avon Breast Cancer Crusade’ which emotionally engages to its targeted audience of women.
3. Choose causes that have synergy with your values, products and services.
Just as we develop and offer products and services that are consistent with our company’s mission and values, we should also choose areas of focus for social initiatives that have the same synergy i.e. Avon – Women and breast cancer.
4. Choose causes that have a potential to support business goals.
As ‘the company for women’ Avon’s business goals are to recruit, train and motivate a vast and evolving army of female representatives whilst also creating valuable relationships with millions of women by focusing on a highly personal issue, namely breast cancer.
They support cause promotions, local fundraising programs, direct online donations and a national series of fundraising walks and the sale of its special “pink ribbon” products where 50 to 83 per cent of the purchase price goes to breast cancer.
5. Choose issues that are of concern to your key stakeholders.
No guessing why Avon chose breast cancer here, it’s important that your chosen cause resonates with your employees, target markets, customers, investors and corporate leaders.
Support for social initiatives will be leveraged when the cause is also one near and dear to your key publics, both internal and external. The issue of cancer is extremely engaging for many people, however there are many other issues that have a similar power to engage, such as alleviation of poverty and hunger, education for disadvantaged children and innovative environmental projects. Research and assessing your business goals is important here.
6. Choose causes that can be supported over a long term.
Achieving maximum benefits for the company (and the cause) often depends on long-term commitments, frequently considered three or more years. Also companies who stick with the cause over the years are more likely to be able to own it, as does Avon with breast cancer and The Body Shop with its strong stance ‘Against Animal Testing’. The Kinghorn Cancer Centre as the name suggests will for this reason be forever synonymous with the Kinghorn name.
About the author: Dora Nikols is the principle at Prickly Pear PR, a PR agency that specialises in corporate social responsibility by helping companies strategically support and promote the issues they care about to create meaningful PR and social media awareness. Follow her on Twitter @DoraNikols.