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How Businesses Can Partner with Charities During the Holidays

Cathie Ericson, Writer

The best way to keep your spirits bright during a not-quite-normal holiday season? Doing good for others. That’s because one silver lining this year has been seeing communities pull together to help others, from delivering groceries to a neighbor to donating to a social justice cause.

Being philanthropic isn’t just good for the recipient, it’s also good business. In fact, a survey from DoSomething.Org finds that 66% of Gen Z says a brand’s association with a social cause positively affects their overall brand impression, with 58% saying they are more likely to purchase.

As we head into the holiday season, you might be wondering how small businesses can make a big impact. The great news is that every donation adds up.

Here are some tips to help your business do good this holiday season.

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Choose a cause mindfully

You’ll be more engaged if you choose a cause you’re passionate about — one that resonates with you and your customers on a deeper level, rather than something fleeting that might’ve caught your attention from recent buzz. It could be something related to COVID-19 relief, a cause you’ve supported in the past, or one that has evergreen appeal and needs.

Choose a cause that aligns with your mission and your audience. For example, if you mostly sell to parents, a children’s charity may be a good fit. If you focus on sustainably sourced products, find an ecofriendly nonprofit.

No matter which nonprofit you choose, conduct research before committing by comparing charities on sites like Charity Navigator or GuideStar.

Engage with customers to help pick your cause

You might find it difficult to pick only one organization, but you don’t have to do it alone. Getting your customers involved in the decision can deepen both their loyalty to your brand and their commitment to your charitable endeavors.

Create an Instagram post or a web page that describes a variety of causes and invite their input. Use facts to illustrate the “what” of the cause, combined with an emotional appeal that tells the “why,” and let your customers vote on which one they think you should support.

You can build anticipation with a countdown clock and a big reveal of your holiday season charitable partner, perhaps on Black Friday or Giving Tuesday. Alternatively, you can spread the love by having a “Charity of the Week” throughout the holiday shopping season.

Whichever you choose, you’ll want to promote your campaign with custom email marketing and social media posts to keep your audiences apprised of progress.

Align with established holiday celebrations

Speaking of social media, why not align your efforts with events that are already earning buzz? For example, on #GivingTuesday, consumers traditionally focus on the charitable aspects of the season, making it the ideal time to promote your campaign by holding a special event or sale. Perhaps pledge to match contributions or donate a percentage of profits from certain items to a designated charity.

If you decide on a charity with an ecofriendly focus, aim to pull out all the stops on #GreenMonday. While the celebration might have its origins in the desire to make “green,” or money, over the years it has gained momentum as a day when brands also tout ecofriendly practices or products. You can generate donation links at your online checkout to give customers the opportunity to contribute to the cause of your choice.

Offer a variety of ways for customers to participate

There are multiple ways your business can donate to a great cause; the most obvious is making a flat donation, but you can further connect with your customers by inviting them to participate.

Consumers gravitate toward purchasing items that offer a greater social benefit, so donating a percentage of your profits often inspires them to spend more. Designate certain items that trigger a donation, or create a donation campaign where you match their contributions up to a certain amount.

For example, you might donate 10% of the profits from all outerwear to a homeless shelter, or suggest that customers add a donation amount as they make their purchase.

Volunteer virtually

Volunteering usually requires taking physical action or offering personal service — from pitching in at a food bank to participating in a charity run. The need to physically distance this season doesn’t necessarily mean you have to forgo volunteer efforts. Whatever it is you like to do, move it to the virtual space and invite your customers and community to join in spreading holiday cheer.

If you normally wrap and deliver presents for a kids’ charity, set up a virtual wrapping party by creating an event web page with details on your virtual project. As an example, the national Toys for Tots website offers connections to local chapters where participants can find out how to deliver in their area.

Other virtual events could include making cards or decorations for hospitals or senior homes. Post a supply list on your website, create and mail kits, or invite a local artisan to lead a live-streamed workshop. Encourage participants to post pictures and details of their efforts on social media to underscore your commitment to the charity and further build your relationship with your customers.

Whether you choose to donate time, money, or a combination this holiday season, including a charitable component to your holiday marketing will be welcomed by your customers.

Cathie is a freelance writer who specializes in clear, actionable content on finance- and marketing-related topics to help owners of small-and-medium-sized businesses focus on their goals.