Ad Agencies And The Art Of Philanthropy

Wish_1This is an update to my original 2013 blog post – Ad Agencies and the Art of Philanthropy.

I am updating because it is that season when people kinda wake up and think a bit more about being philanthropic. This is, of course, good news. However, I think that while giving to the needy or other good causes is a good thing for the world, it is also a smart business strategy. I view giving as a win-win and something, even if clearly a business tool, a great thing to do.

My buddy Russ Stoddard, the main man at Boise’s Oliver Russell agency, woke up one day and asked how he could take his local agency to become global and unignorable. His solution was to rebrand the agency as…  We Are A Social Impact Branding Agency. It worked. Oliver Russell went from local to global. Plus, they are also helping numerous good causes while growing the agency. They delivered on the art of philanthropy. A good thing.

Need some more inspiration? Here is a link to Russ’s book: Rise Up: How to Build a Socially Conscious Business” – a potential blueprint for your agency.

Philanthropy and Your Ad Agency

The great majority of advertising agencies have one or more nonprofit clients. It is a wonderfully symbiotic relationship. The nonprofits get high-level creative and the agencies get to feel good, look good to their communities and, most importantly, provide important services to charities.

This charitable work is also good for the agency’s new business program. If done correctly, the nonprofit relationship is strategic. One agency that gets it is Portland’s Grady Britton. You can read about their multi-year program in my article, “An Agency That Does Good” on the Agency Post.

I’ve felt so strongly about the symbiotic aspect of charitable work that I’ve always recommended a strategic approach to my clients. Below is how I’ve represented this concept. If you agree with me, please pass this on to your clients. At a time of reduced government spending, it is important that agencies play a more assertive role in selling the benefits of Strategic Philanthropy.

Strategic Philanthropy Is Good Business…

Due to the recession, many marketers lowered their annual investment in philanthropic donations. Because of this, I believe that this is precisely the time to consider why, how and where you donate based on adopting the principles of Strategic Philanthropy. Here is a definition:

Strategic Philanthropy, also known as Cause Marketing, is a business strategy whereby a company clearly aligns its mission and business goals with a nonprofit organization to create a strategically tailored and mutually beneficial partnership. A well-designed program balances the positive impact on the community with a clear understanding of the positive impact a giving program will have for the company, its brand, customers and, importantly, employee recruitment and retention.

Strategic Philanthropy isn’t about disguising self-serving activities under a veil of good intentions or adopting a cause simply to sell more products. It is about sincerely showing your customers and employees that you really care about your community and important causes. It is about having your organization receive measurable benefits that will make you want to donate even more next year. This is a win-win marketing program for your company, your employees and nonprofit partners.

Why participate with nonprofits?

Effective strategic alliances will enhance your brand equity and image, increase stakeholder and employee loyalty and lead to increased revenue and sales for the parties involved.

It is not difficult to leverage your charitable activities to enhance your corporate image. Here are some thoughts to get you started.

Think small. Consider working with local charities that can demonstrate in-market impact from your donations.

Create alignment. Align your products, services and areas of expertise with an organization that complements your company’s mission and business.

Lead by example. Set up a charitable program with clear community benefits to demonstrate to your employees that your company doesn’t exist simply to make money.

Involve your employees. Build a program that gives your employees a sense of ownership and a direct, visible connection to the good you are doing. Working with local charities will allow your employees to participate on a personal level.

Spread the word. Most nonprofits have limited funds for advertising and public relations. Leverage your giving to promote your charitable programs and to help create awareness for your nonprofit partners. Pitch positive community-interest stories to the local press, have a charitable giving section for your website and let your customers know what you are doing.

Think bottom line. If you and other businesses see a tangible benefit from giving, you and they will give more. This may be the most compelling point of all.

Facts to support the concept of Strategic Philanthropy:

According to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Survey, a national survey on the attitudes of Americans about corporate giving, there are many benefits to be accrued from Strategic Philanthropy:

88% of Americans say it is acceptable for companies to involve a cause or issue in their marketing. This record number represents a 33% increase since Cone began measuring in 1993 (66%).

85% of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about.

90% of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes. Put another way: More than 278 million people in the U.S. want to know what a company is doing to benefit a cause.

My Agency

Up top is an Alaska Airlines plane that supported the Make A Wish Foundation. Win-Win.

My agency Citrus was closely aligned with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oregon. We donated our services in producing marketing strategies, branding, collateral materials and Internet marketing. We mention our Make-A-Wish association and show our work when we pitch new business. I was on the Make-A-Wish board.

Importantly, our account management team, designers and copywriters viewed working on Make-A-Wish as one of the most rewarding things that they did at Citrus. Granting wishes was very important to us. Everyone at Citrus benefited from our association.

Give me a call if you would like to learn more about how I’ve approached this important agency service.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.