5 Ways For Businesses To Fight Poverty And Get Good PR (Without Being Sleazy) - Blog Action Day

Charitable donations by companies large and small are no longer the exception to the rule. As consumers become increasingly concerned with the products they consume and their part in the greater world, companies have followed suit (to their credit).

Charity is no longer alms tossed to beggars; it's a carefully constructed part of many businesses strategic plan. Charitable giving is part of their PR, it's listed in the sustainability report to the board of directors, and it's a method to gain new business or create community good will.

Today, as part of Blog Action Day, I will illustrate ways that business can use their charitable donations to help fight poverty. This is only for companies actually concerned with making a difference - these tactics will take time and resources.

But for companies truly invested in eradicating poverty, I hope these ideas can spurn on your good works and direct them in an efficient ways (and even increase your profit in the process).

Forget The Sleaze

We've all seen the businesspeople on the front steps of City Hall presenting a giant check. We've all seen the press conference with the Mayor.

Good idea, but kind of stale these days.

People realize now that you can't just throw money at a problem and think happy thoughts. You need to get your customers involved and leverage both their efforts and their good will. You might need to get your hands dirty. And, you might find these methods incredibly rewarding, both for your business as well as personally.

5 Ways For Businesses To Fight Poverty And Get Good PR Without Being Sleazy

  1. Involve your customers: American Express could have done anything with their chunk of charitable change. They chose to get their members involved by holding a contest to see which charities their members thought should receive the donation. Over 88K Am Ex card holders participated. This contest made card holders feel more involved with a larger community, increased brand identity and loyalty, played to the exclusivity of Am Ex (only card holders could vote), and actually made a great difference in the world.
  2. Enhance your social media profiles: Each year, hundreds of State Farm Insurance employees spend time building homes with Habitat for Humanity. In their 12 years of work, they've raised almost $2.5M for the charity. And yet, their Facebook profile contains no photos from these events - it reads like a corporate recruiting office. Young consumers (and increasingly their parents and grandparents) actually care about this activity. Your company's social media profile would be well served to have a picture of the CEO swinging a hammer for a needy family.
  3. Preemptive education: When the Vioxx scandal hit, drug maker Merck was viciously attacked in the mainstream media and in the blogosphere. However, did you know that they spent millions of dollars curing river blindness for over 200 million people? I doubt you did. A Google search for "Merck and river blindness" pulls only 29K results, but "Vioxx scandal" has 252K. Merck could have staved off a PR disaster by preemptively educating consumers about their charitable work. Fighting poverty and disease is great, but take credit when it's due. One thing to remember though: this effort shouldn't be a "campaign," and it shouldn't be a "PR stunt" - it should be an on-going education initiative intricately linked to business objectives and future-looking strategy.
  4. Get Google juice: Maybe you're already helping a charity - that's great. But are you getting the most you can? Links from prominent websites - especially those ending in .gov or .edu - can help your search engine results. Ask to be listed (and hyperlinked) with other sponsors. Offer up the information to Wikipedia (but be careful - the guard dogs here won't tolerate anything biased or untrue). Check Squidoo and get linked on both the charity lens as well as the cause lens. You get Google juice, but you also increase the number of people who will hear about your work and thus, create even more community good will.
  5. Outreach to social media: There's nothing wrong with reaching out to bloggers like me, if your work or charity fits with out work. Be sure to read how to pitch bloggers done right and done wrong. Be relevant, polite, and use common sense and common courtesy. But otherwise, there's really no reason to fear the blogosphere. After all, if Blog Action Day could mobilize over 10K blogs, just think about what your company could do.

If you're feeling inspired, check out the Blog Action Day website for giving ideas. My personal favorite among their recommended charities is Kiva.org.

And although not strictly poverty-related, there are two charities that BG and I support and hope you will too. Please check out The Range of Motion Project (ROMP) which provides prosthetics to those in need and Open Books which promotes literacy and reading in Chicago and beyond. Donations to ROMP and Open Books are tax-deductible. Please give with a generous heart.

Finally, I'd love to hear how has your business helped combat poverty. Please share in the comments section below. If we can learn from each other, that will only make our efforts greater!

(Special thanks to BG for this blog post idea. Honorable mentions go out to @SoniaSimone and @SimaSays. Thanks!)

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