How to Effectively Market Your Charitable Work While Playing the Charity Card
By now I hope you’ve narrowed down your philanthropic initiatives to a handful of great causes that meet the needs of your practice, your patients and your community (see Part I). But how do you go about giving back without looking like you’re patting yourself on the back more than you’re helping out the less fortunate?
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em. Here are some tips and tricks:
- Meet a local, tangible community need with your charitable initiatives. Offer a challenge gift for a local capital campaign. Buy a new oven for a food kitchen. Provide backpacks and school supplies for low-income children. Collect winter coats for a homeless shelter. Generating resources for families in need in your backyard creates a relevant and timely way to communicate your efforts to your patients and the community at large. It’s easy for your patients to bring gently used toys into your office for your holiday toy drive – and it’s a clear way to communicate your community involvement.
- Join in on an existing effort instead of building your program from the bottom up. Support a Boy Scout troop. Create a team for a local run/walk to benefit charity. Purchase a table for the annual gala and send your top staff and top referrals. Work with a local business to support sports teams. Join in on a health fair and do free screenings and give out oral health supplies. When you work with an existing event/initiative, you will benefit from all of the marketing and branding already in place by that charity, and you’ll have better success in communicating the impact of your work. Even better, if you triangulate your efforts with another area business, you reach into that organization’s clientele as well.
- Secure support and resources from the charity. What should you expect from your charity partner? First identify who will be your contact person at the charity. If you’re not able to get adequate support from the group, or you find the charity isn’t interested in or well-equipped to work with you, find a new charity! Remember, corporate social responsibility means that the process is mutually beneficial for both parties involved. If you’re not able to get the support you need, don’t gamble. Here is a list of some things you might request in the way of support from your charity partner: organizational collateral, logos, event materials, flyers, links to event registration, team or group options for fundraisers, gift acknowledgment, media support, press releases and communications regarding the impact of your work. Decide what kind of help you need, ask for it and get to work! Up-front communication will ensure that all expectations will be met.
- When publicizing your work – SHARE THE IMPACT! What’s all this talk about impact? Impact describes what happened as a result of your charitable initiatives, not on how great you are for doing what you did. Focus your communications on who benefited, what has changed or improved as a result, and quantify your actions as much as possible. The charity you support should be an expert in providing you with this information. For example:
- “This year’s Kadar Karnival supported Mothers Matter, an organization that delivers personal care items to deserving moms in our town. Thanks to all of our patient families for donating supplies and funds to help local moms be the best they can be!”
- “Congratulations to Dr. Dustin Burleson and the team at Burleson Orthodontics for donating comprehensive orthodontic care to 36 Smiles Change Lives patients this year. This donation of $180,000 worth of life-changing orthodontics is made possible by the support of Burleson Orthodontics patients and staff who support the practice’s charitable initiatives here in Kansas City.”
- Ready, set, MARKET!You can run in circles publicizing your community efforts, so I recommend you stick with what works for you and only add one or two new platforms. For example, if your enewsletter has tremendous open rates, stick with that already successful piece and integrate a Facebook campaign along with some collateral in your lobby. Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean it’s a good use of time. Less is more! The odds are in your favor if you focus on doing a few things really well. Remember, you can always up the ante in the future. Here are some safe bets in marketing your good deeds:
- Post your upcoming philanthropy/event calendar in your lobby and on your website. Consider including a thermometer or scoreboard showing your progress toward your goal. (We’ve already collected 65 winter coats, just 25 more to go!)
- Create events on social media and invite supporters to attend, share or participate in some convenient way.
- Include pre- and post-campaign articles recognizing everyone involved in the effort with photos and quotes from participants.
- Issue a press release about your event impact. Invite the media to attend events and initiatives with great curb appeal and visuals. Be sure to have a spokesperson available with well-crafted talking points. A three-second TV clip can be really great, or really awful PR if you’re not prepared.
- Give awards to patients, staff and community partners for outstanding participation and progress toward team efforts, focusing on the charitable impact.
- Share your good work with your referrals, inviting them to attend, and communicating results after completion. Charitable work, and subsequent documentation of the doctor doing something generous and tangible, humanizes your practice before your key audiences. I’m picturing a photo of the doctor, hammer in hand, sweat dripping from her forehead, assisting in building a house for Habitat for Humanity – priceless marketing! Who cares if her hair is a mess!
- It is better to give than to receive, right?The return on this investment is huge. Here are just a few of the benefits you may enjoy from your giving:
- Solidifying your brand as a caring corporate citizen.
- Building or strengthening relationships with referrals and patients.
- Securing new leads. (It’s OK to capture information during events if approved by the charity and done so tastefully and with permission.)
- Name recognition and media interest outside of self-promotion.
- Engaged staff and happy patients.
- My favorite: The knowledge that you did something wonderful to change the world in a meaningful and significant way. (Because you’re a big softy …)
Now that you’ve got some marketing ideas, my next post will cover examples of successful (and some hypothetical) philanthropic efforts I’d like to share with you. After all, we all like to benchmark successful models and I’m here to level the playing field for all of you teeth-lovers. No wagers needed.