Give It Up For Planning

Selecting the Right Charity Partnership

Walking into stores, it’s hard not to notice that many retailers have created a charity partnership. There are often people standing outside pitching their cause…or they are there when you walk in, and are there when you walk out. At the cash wrap, many retailers ask if you want to donate additional dollars to a cause they support. At this point, you feel awkward and obligated. However you are trying to adhere to a holiday budget and you just said “no” to providing clean water to children. Or, this is the third store you have been in today that uses this donation structure and you have already donated but you feel terribly uncomfortable saying that because it feels like an excuse.

Believe us, we are all for giving back and getting behind a cause, but when it comes to retailers and retail partners asking for donations, we urge retailers to tread lightly and look at it from the vantage point of their customers.

While we believe in the importance of giving back and being a strong community supporter, retailers need to be consistent in their giving and how they do it. It should be something that is meaningful to the store and works with their brand personality… which can’t always be the owner’s favorite personal charity. Retailers need to be selective and have to be able to say “no” to various causes without feeling bad (retailers, like everyone else, can’t support every cause). By having a plan and knowing what works and what doesn’t work with your brand, retailers are better able to tell people (with reason) that they are unable to commit.

If you have a marketing plan that includes charitable giving, you then have a budget set up for this in advance. Therefore, when someone asks for a donation, you have an easy way to consider their cause without feeling pressured to say yes. You can tell them that you have only budgeted a certain amount in this year’s plan but if they leave their information you can consider it for your plan next year. It also allows you to have an amount for ad hoc donations that fit within the store’s brand and personality without having to give to every good cause/need…because that would put you out of business.

This leaves us with the question of when is it appropriate to ask customers for donations? And how can retailers partner with charities in an appropriate manner?

Macy’s has always been creative with their giving, donating $1 to the Make A Wish Foundation for every letter a child comes in and mails to Santa, as a part of the Believe ProgramPanera Cares allows customers to pay what they can, making the whole process need blind.

Asking your customers for donations should never include tactics that feel like pressure or that make them feel that you are imposing your personal beliefs on them. People give in many ways and often have their own personal charities they give to separately. They should never feel bad for not participating in something at your store.

If you have a charity partnership, does it work within your brand, and does it work for your customers? If you have been thinking about bringing on a charitable partner or backing a cause, how can you be creative with your giving? Need some ideas or just want to talk this holiday season? We are all (rein)ears.