Giving Back Strategically Without Breaking the Bank

Are you inundated with charities and nonprofits asking you for donations and/or free printing? It seems the list of good causes is endless, and it becomes hard to say no, especially if some of these organizations are your customers and it is one of your target markets. Equally important is our obligation to give back to the community that supports us and to the good causes we believe in.

How can we strategically make this a business advantage and still do the right thing for good causes? Some of us may need to learn to say “no” but that is too simple of an answer. This is certainly easier if you are in a relatively hidden location and are not actively engaged in the community. Of course, if it is that hard to find or engage, you it may also be a marketing problem.

In our Marketing & Print Division, we have pretty much solved this problem for our centers with a program we call the Footprint Fund. Our franchise members basically create a “fund” that they budget for each year. They provide in-kind services via the Footprint Fund that charities or nonprofits can apply for each year. The applicants are judged by an independent board of advisors and awarded based on merit and need.

When our participating centers are asked for a donation, they simply suggest that the organization apply to the Footprint Fund. This gives a positive message that their request will be considered without the need for an immediate cash donation or the need to say, “No.”

Here are some other ways to “strategically” give back without breaking the bank:

  • Set a budget for cash donations or in-kind donations and stick to it. When the budget is spent and commitments are made, you must be willing to say so.
  • If a good customer, prospect or simply a cause you passionately believe in makes a request you can always make an exception even if the budget is exhausted. But, let them know it is an exception.
  • Plan the budget “strategically” with a list of expected causes to support. The list should include causes that fit your business objectives, targeted customers and prospects and your own personal values.
  • If a cause does not fit your personal values and/or accomplish an important business purpose, it’s perfectly fine to be candid and honest.
  • Politics, religion or any potentially controversial causes can cause problems. If they do not fit your chosen business objectives, target audience or your own personal values, it might be best avoid them. For example, you could set a policy that you do not support any political groups, and the only religious cause you support is your own church. You have that right as a business owner. Just be aware of the strategic implications and be willing to deal with them.

We should all give back to the community and to causes that fit our business and our personal values. However, if we are to operate a successful business, we should give back strategically and make it a part our business plan and marketing plan. By the way, if you don’t have a written business plan and marketing plan it is business sense and sensibility that you develop one and equally important to follow it and “get it done.”

Carl Gerhardt is the chairman of Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign & Graphics Operations LCC, and a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. The company’s Marketing & Print Division, headquartered in Plymouth, MI, is comprised of Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print brands of marketing, printing, mailing and Web services providers. Its Sign & Graphics Division, headquartered in Columbia, MD, is comprised of Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign and graphics communications providers.

Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.

Related Content