Seven Steps to Becoming a Corporate Charity Rock Star

I am not ashamed to admit that I’ve been in the ladies toilets a great deal lately.  You see it’s United Way campaign time and I’m feeling a little bit like a baby seal on an ice flow. They come after the marketers first. “You guys always have such creative ideas!” Is United Way Press Gang code for “Wow, this is harder than we thought. Let’s dump it on marketing.

So with enormous respect for the good works of United Way and the corporate fundraising teams they rely on, I will answer on behalf of the marketing department in your company:

  • No, I don’t have 7,832 branded items you can use for prizes.
  • No, I will not help you set up your mini golf tournament on the 11th floor.
  • No, I don’t have a “connection” who will cough up a family cruise for the top fundraiser.
  • No, I don’t have any funky, cool, revolutionary or outside-the-box ideas for your campaign.

If I had any of those things, guess what? I’d be on the fu@#ing committee.

I don’t know why but well beyond dismal United Way campaigns, it seems that marketers get stuck with the larger charitable to do list. If this is you, here are my tips:

Step One: Try as hard as you can to punt ownership to someone else:  HR, Corporate Communications, Shipping & Receiving all come to mind.

Step Two: If you are unsuccessful, divide the budget into thirds. If you have no budget, you are off the hook.

Step Three: Give one third to your local charity teams (HR can help you set these up; or just recycle the social committee; they clearly have time on their hands). This is what funds hockey team jerseys, ads in the high school yearbook, the hole-in-one contest in the Rotary golf tournament and other worthy local things.

Step Four: Put another third into an emergency fund. This gives you a way to respond to natural disasters, the CEO’s mother’s sudden interest in Saw-whet owl habitat and a little free cash to help out here and there with matching grants.

Step Five: Take the final third and start thinking about these things:

  • What problems do you, as a company, solve?
  • Whom do you ultimately serve? Techies? Children? Contractors? Small business owners?
  • With what issues do these ultimate users, have an emotional connection? Illiteracy? Access to technology?
  • Which organizations work to solve these issues? Take the religious and political organizations off your list.
  • Which of these receive money from your competitors? Take them off the list.
  • Which of the rest seem to be run by crazy people or Shih Tzus? Take them off the list

Step Six: You should now have a short list of organizations with actual charitable status, a relevant mission and no competing sponsors. Pick three of these and meet with them in person, ideally in their office (check for Shih Tzus). Ask them to design a three-year program with your budget. Make them come back with a detailed plan of how they (not you) will administer your program, measure its impact, support your brand, change the world, communicate your generosity to the community and help your Corporate Overlords score some karmic points (a board seat is a nice start, so are tickets to their fancy dinner)

Step Seven: Pick a charity. Present it to the Overlords. If you can bring a tear-jerking video to the presentation, do it.  Once approved, write the press release, set up a quarterly review and get back to the toilets; the United Way committee is still looking for you.

Bizmarketer is Elizabeth Williams
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