Small business and social good: some tips on doing the right thing

Last week I wrote about some ways that not-for-profits could leverage the concepts of lean marketing. Today I want to discuss ways that small business can support not-for-profits and get involved in meaningful causes, and at the same time help to drive economic development locally, regionally, or even internationally. The non-profit benefits from increased promotion to a larger audience, and the small business can benefit from positive public relations, stronger audience engagement, and marketing opportunities that they might now otherwise have.

This strategy has come to be known as Cause Marketing, and it typically describes how  a business engages with a not-for-profit organization to the benefit of both. A great example of the is last year’s (PRODUCT)RED  campaign, a major marketing effort, the goal of which was to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. Major brands, including Nike, Gap, Starbucks, and Apple among other large companies, signed on to this effort and shared the (Product)Red logo on their products, and in their advertising and branding. Small business, too, can engage in similar efforts through local charities such as United Way, March of Dimes, and the Red Cross. These organizations allow businesses to cross-promote their efforts and use the NFPs branding to indicate their participation.

Recently, we hosted a project on our site for the United Nations Population Fund 7 Billion Actions Campaign, which has a goal of  raising awareness around global population growth, specifically preparing for this October, when the world’s population will top the seven billion mark. We felt this was a wonderful cause and a great opportunity for crowdSPRING to get involved in an important topic and a global challenge.

As you consider whether Cause Marketing is a good strategy for your business, the most important point to remember is that first you have to believe in the cause. Don’t choose a non-profit because you think it will help you reach more customers, but rather because you believe in the work they are doing. Don’t promote a social effort because you believe you can profit from that effort, but rather because it is something that is important to you. In other words, let the cause itself drive your involvement, and let the marketing impact remain secondary. Your customers will appreciate your passion, your involvement and your integrity and it is out of this admiration that they may be compelled to support your business.

Here are a few businesses that have actually built a meaningful following around a cause and that contribute greatly to communities around the world:

  • Grameen Bank makes small (micro) loans to poor people to help them start their own businesses.
  • NIKA Water Company sells bottled water in the USA and uses its profits to bring clean water to the developing world
  • Newman’s Own donates 100% of its profits to support educational charities
  • Toms Shoes sells lightweight shoes and with every pair sold, donates a pair to a person in need.

We encourage you to finds a cause you care about and engage your employees, your family, your friends, and your customers. They will appreciate your passion and your efforts, and you will be proud of your own engagement and effort for an undertaking you believe in. And, if all goes well, your business will prosper as a result of your work. Remember, what comes around, goes around.

Image: UNFPA 7Billion Actions logo, by Maria Mandagaran