Does Being Charitable in Your Business Make a Difference to Your Customers?

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Sean Porcher

There’s an age old question as to whether being charitable in your business actually helps drive customers, sales or even makes a difference to current or potential customers. Aside from fundraising events that may lead to a temporary increase in volume or revenue, are there any long-term benefits to being charitable? Sure, it feels good to be able to give when you have the ability to give, especially in moments of tragedy or to a cause that is important to you. But what are the true benefits to your business?

For a moment, let’s look at something that is the easiest to analyze: giving in a time of tragedy or need. One of my first true experiences with a charitable event was following the September 11 attack on America. I don’t need to spend time talking about the despair we all felt or the vulnerability we felt as a nation. I remember sitting in a manager’s meeting and discussing some ideas with the team. As a company, at the time, we could have just sent a check to the Red Cross and had the feeling we contributed to a cause. The more we talked about it though, the more it occurred to me that my team, my managers, my employees and my customers all wanted to do something. Not everyone can afford to mail in a check or make a sizeable donation. So, we embarked on this all-encompassing endeavor to create a fundraiser for the 9-11 Red Cross fund where employees who chose to participate contributed their time, our suppliers contributed product, we supplied the facility and our customers came in and got their services for whatever they wanted to pay. 100-percent of that payment went to the Red Cross.

No one really knew what to expect from it. We chose two of our busiest locations, both staffed with 100-percent volunteer employees. Some were skeptical if customers would come in and just get a free oil change. Others were skeptical about whether or not people would come in at all. As it turns out, we raised over $30,000 that day in the two stores combined. I remember seeing one check for $500 just for an oil change. A vast majority of customers paid more than the actual cost. Our employees felt great to be a part of a sizeable donation. Our customers felt great being a part of something that truly made a difference. And, of course, as operators, we felt great knowing we made a difference.

The lasting impact of that type of event is unmeasurable. However, charitable giving goes far beyond specific fundraising events. The goal should be no different, though: engage employees and customers in the giving experience. The success of any charity drive, or charity program, is in the engagement of employees and their ability to communicate the program to the end-customer. The more buy-in at the team level, the more successful the program will be. We’ve all been to the checkout stand at the local supermarket when the checker asks, “Want to donate a dollar to xyz charity?” Most consumers would say, “No, not today.” But imagine if that checker was more engaged and asked, “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we are trying to raise $X for xyz charity, and we can really use your help. Could you spare a dollar today to help us make a difference?” That level of engagement makes a big impact.

I feel so strongly about charitable giving that I helped launch our company with the sole intent to help raise money and awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. We have successfully implemented packages of products into our quick lube locations that not only drive profit, but also drive consumer engagement. It is a proven fact; consumers will pay more for a product or service when the purchase of that product benefits a charity. I encourage you to find ways to engage your employees and customers in a way that benefits both the charity and your business. After all, the more successful your business, the more you can benefit the charity.

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