If you’re working on a tight budget like I am marketing options can be limited. There is social media but even with targeted sponsored posts and ads your reach may not feel sufficient especially when social media overall has a global reach.
One inexpensive method to getting your business known while supporting your community is to get involved with nonprofits. While some of you may find the idea of working with nonprofits to build your business opportunistic keep in mind it’s a symbiotic relationship. Here are some tips when working with nonprofits.
Choose a nonprofit that you care about
It can be easy to want to partner with the largest or most popular nonprofit but it will benefit you in the long term if you really care about the cause. First of all you’ll enjoy the work you do with them. Second your efforts will be more authentic. People can tell when you don’t actually care about something. Much like doing something you love for a living makes it easier to work, loving a nonprofit will make volunteering and donating more enjoyable.
If you choose an organization that is industry related this will also enhance your authority as an expert in your field. As a baker who gets asked to teach students from food and baking nonprofits it shows my customers that those organizations trust my competency. They could be thinking, “I know those organizations know what they’re talking about, so he must know what he’s talking about too.” Of course, you need to be a good product to sell. If you don’t do a quality job it won’t matter much who you’re partnering with.
Choose a nonprofit that has a similar target market as you
As a businessperson you have to make sure you spend every minute of your day wisely. You only have so many resources and you don’t want to exhaust your time without a reasonable return. The way to maximize your relationship with a nonprofit is to make sure you both serve the same communities. Nonprofits locally can help you reach consumers in your backyard. Does the nonprofit service a segment of the market your service or product could benefit? If you’ve been having trouble reaching a demographic, partnering with a nonprofit that is successful in that market could boost your connections with that segment. You could also learn why you were having such a hard time reaching that particular community. Learn from the nonprofit’s experiences and apply it to your business.
Promote your work with nonprofits
People who want you to work for free always bring up the word exposure. For the most part, I’m not encouraging you to do tons of work for free for only exposure. Exposure is one marketing goal of many and when you’re on a budget donating services or products can help you bridge that gap in your marketing plan – in a smart effective way.
The exposure works both ways though. When you publicize your charitable work you aren’t being insincere or self-important. You are also helping that nonprofit get exposure to your audiences. Sharing your work also encourages customers to support you – because supporting you means supporting causes they also care about. Sure they could just donate to the cause directly, but buying a birthday cake from you that they were already planning on purchasing will increase their support for their favorite nonprofit two fold.
Make sure your volunteering and donations make sense
As mentioned, time and money are not unlimited resources. Your donations must have meaningful impact at some point – you can do those feel good only donations, but you can also donate yourself out of business. If you go out of business both you and the nonprofits you support will suffer. In other words, your sustainable business model is everybody’s goal.
I’ll give you some personal examples. I get asked a lot for cupcake donations. As fellow bakers I’m sure you understand that cupcakes – like any baked good – take time and money. I’m sure you get the feeling, as I do, that people assume we bake for fun and the business side is just a happy coincidence. With the rising costs of butter, eggs, and milk and the sheer fact you deserve to get paid like any other employee you know that business – even in baking – comes first.
So when people ask me for cupcake donations I hesitate as straight cupcake donations do very little for me. For me, because my business concept is conducting private baking classes and demonstrations a cupcake conveys next to nothing about what I do. This is why I prefer to be there with my cupcakes so I can talk up my business – or even better I like to do on site interactive demonstrations so I can show exactly what I do for my business. Having a unique business like mine can be difficult for people to fully understand but when people at a large nonprofit event see a crowd at your table because of your demonstration they immediately understand the value of your services.
But let’s say that you just sell cupcakes for your business. At first glance donating cupcakes seems like the best idea to get your quality and name out there but remember you can enhance the impact of your donation by attaching branding and literature to it. If you can individually package your cupcakes with your branding – including your website and contact info – that’s a start. You could get picks to stick into your cupcakes to decrease your packaging costs and environmental impact. You could include a coupon with each donation as a call to action. Think creatively to get the most out of your donation. Look online and check sites like Pinterest for ideas.
Remember that you can also offer nonprofits a discount. If you sell your cupcakes for $4 a piece, a donation of 600 cupcakes is the equivalent of giving away $2400. At that amount you might as well hire a marketing firm for a month. Instead offer a discount of $3 a cupcake and negotiate prominent branding like in their program or on banners. You could also offer to get 600 cupcakes by connecting with other bakers – each donating 60 cupcakes – on behalf of the nonprofit. You’ll still get your donation in, you’re now volunteering with the nonprofit, introducing the nonprofit to additional businesses, and creating a more positive environment for your fellow bakers (which I always encourage).
Be consistent with your efforts
You can’t expect customers to bust down your door the instant you start working with a charity. Working with a nonprofit is about relationship building. You’re building a relationship with the nonprofit but also with the community they serve. So just like you need to see your friend regularly to maintain your friendship, you need to work with your nonprofit regularly to maintain this relationship.
This doesn’t mean that I expect you to make large donations every month. I have a great relationship with Together We Bake and I only see them once every two months, but I make myself available to them. When they ask if I can come teach their ladies a class, I’m there. If they send me an e-mail, I respond timely. Sound familiar? If your friend needs a favor or is trying to talk to you, you don’t ignore them, right? Do what you can and do it consistently. Be a good friend to your nonprofits.
The benefit to working consistently with nonprofits is that it shows you are sincere to that organization’s mission. You’ll also be able to share stories of your work with the nonprofit regularly giving you consistent exposure on social media and press releases. There was a time where I was having a hard time getting out to networking meetings but I was donating several classes to private auctions in the area. When I did get back to networking meetings several people said it felt like I had never left because they saw my donations everywhere.
So now that you’re interested in connecting with nonprofits where can you find them?Perhaps the easiest way is to find a local chapter of a national nonprofit like the Red Cross or PFLAG. Another method is to talk to other business owners and friends about nonprofits they partner with and see if any pique your interest. Check newspapers and magazines for press releases or even stories covering nonprofit events. Prince William Living has a section in their magazine called ‘Giving Back’ which features a local nonprofit in my county every month. If you’re curious who I partner with or who I donate to you can see a list of some of them by clicking here.
Have you partnered with a nonprofit?
Tell me about your stories and your time working with them and how it helped your business in the comment thread below.