The new year is a great time to align your business with a cause you and your customers share. Increasingly, customers “shop local” to support a business in their community, and they’ll redirect some spending from big-box stores or Amazon if they know their dollars are supporting a larger cause that matters.
How to choose the right cause for your business
When first starting out, come up with a list of potential charities or causes you might be interested in supporting. Take a look at larger organizations in your industry to see who they support. Then talk to your staff and customers to see what causes resonate with them. Consider surveying your customers to find out what they care about most. This will help you uncover organizations you might not be familiar with. Once you have a list, vet potential causes against these guidelines to see which ones rise to the top.
- Be authentic. Choose a cause that has meaning to you and that you can commit to. Being part of something bigger—something that positively influences the world—can be a huge morale boost in your business, but only if you authentically care about the cause. So start with what moves you.
- Stay relevant to your customers. Ideally your cause not only motivates you and your staff, but inspires and moves your customers to want to associate with you and your business. Businesses demonstrating social responsibility often can attract loyal customers who want to make ethical purchasing decisions.
- Reinforce your brand. See if you can find natural synergies between the charity and your brand. Spas can help provide victims of abuse or cancer survivors with makeovers. Businesses that cater to pets should consider supporting local animal shelters. Is your bar or restaurant the local hangout for the firehouse across the street? Help fundraise for their safety equipment. There are so many ways to make a difference…try to find one that fits into the greater story of your business.
- Keep local. Whenever possible try to choose charities and causes that are nearby. This helps employees and customers see where the money is going, helps them feel that they are making a real difference and reinforces the message that you are an integral part of the community fabric. “Buy local” has much more meaning when the local business supports the rest of the community.
How to show your support: 5 quick ideas to get involved
Once you have chosen a cause, think through how you can make a difference and how involved you want to be. Here are a few quick ideas:
- Volunteer your time or services. Get a team of employees together, with branded shirts, to volunteer at the next charity event. It’s a great way to make your contributions more visible to the community.
- Donate products or materials. This is a natural for restaurants or other businesses with inventory that dates quickly: Send leftovers to food pantries.
- Give money. Donating cash is a quick and easy way to get involved, but may not be the most satisfactory.
- Raise money for the cause. There are several apps that now make this extremely easy. CoinOut, for example, allows customers to round up the amount of their purchases, then donate that extra change to a good cause. Donate at Checkout is another option. Merchants can pre-program a list of charities and suggested amounts to encourage larger donations, or use the round-up feature. You could even attend an event and use a Clover mini as a donation box using Donate Here.
- Educate customers. Sometimes supporting a cause is as easy as spreading the news and encouraging customers to get involved. For example, cancer awareness campaigns can teach customers about the symptoms and signs to watch for.
However you choose to support your cause, make sure you are transparent about how your business is involved.
How to measure your efforts (and inspire more giving)
Not everything requires measurement, but keeping track can help inspire more donations, and may even help the business get a tax deduction. If you set a goal—such as money donated, names on a petition, animals saved, or customers reached—you’ll notice staff and customers getting excited once they get close to reaching it. Even if you’re not providing regular updates on amounts, giving customers context for the ask can inspire more generous donations. “A one-dollar donation provides 3 meals to a hungry child” turns a single dollar into a powerful tool of change. Make sure whatever you report is completely accurate and amounts donated are transparent.
While giving to a charity is a valuable pursuit in and of itself, anything that takes a considerable amount of time should also be measured in terms of how it may be affecting your business. Consider using the Clover Customers app to measure:
- How many of VIP customers participate in your cause-support program?
- Is participation growing or declining over time?
- Have your efforts increased foot traffic to your store? If you’re a restaurant supporting a local group, does the group regularly frequent the restaurant? Foot traffic is a measure both of potential revenue and your brand value. Clover Insights can show you easy-to-understand graphs of your foot traffic before, during and after events to help you determine results.
Keep the momentum going
Once you know who supports the charity (by tracking responses in the Customers and Insights apps), try a promotion offering a discount to people who visibly support your charity (for example, with a ribbon or T-shirt) on specific days. You’ll make your best customers feel like part of your team to make a difference.[image: EXPO 2015. Mangiare tutti by Marco on flickr]
Clover is sold by leading U.S. banks including Bank of America, BBVA, Citi, PNC, SunTrust and Wells Fargo. You’ll also find Clover at our trusted partners including CardConnect, Restaurant Depot, and Sam’s Club. For more information, visit us at clover.com.