How to Use Giving as a Strategy for Your Small Business–With Maggie Keenan

Social mission is a business strategy that differentiates your company from competitors, drives customer loyalty and advocacy, draws and retains employees and saves you money. There’s a tendency for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs to think they can’t leverage this as a business strategy until they are bigger, richer or more known. But they’d be wrong. It’s not how much you give but how (and that) you give that makes the difference. Your small business or fledgling startup camped at the kitchen table can reap the benefits of a giving program on even the smallest budget.

I invited business philanthropy and cause marketing consultant Maggie F. Keenan Ed.D to Cause Capitalism to talk about what a giving program is, how to start one, when to begin and how it will benefit your business.  Maggie is the owner and Chief Giving Strategist at givingadvice and author of Small Businesses Give Big: Why charitable giving is a great business strategy! She defines ‘giving strategy’ as giving back through financial donations, in-kind products, time cause marketing campaigns.

Click the player to listen to our conversation or right-click and save to download.

  • Business that give back share four commonalities: (1) they feel a sense of purpose to help their community; (2) their giving is a reflection of their personal, family or business values; (3) they make giving (regardless of how much) a part of their business from the beginning; (4) they let the rewards of giving flow back into their business without seeking results.
  • Begin giving now.
  • Have a plan that guides your giving program. One of the common mistakes that Maggie sees is businesses that don’t have a plan in place. Think about trying to run a business without a knowing your market or customer base. Giving is a business strategy, so treat it like one and have a plan–read on to see how.
  • Decide where you want to give. To determine what cause or organization to support, look at where you’ve donated in the past. What issue do you want your business to help solve? What cause can you commit 100% of yourself to? In addition, the cause should have some connection to your business or customers. Find a balance between the two.
  • Decide how you want to give. Maggie advises companies to use a mix of financial donations, cause marketing and employee-led fundraising events or volunteering to form their giving strategy.
  • Decide when you want to give. Look at your cash-flow. If you business slows in the summer, that’s the time to do fundraising events and employee-volunteer programs. When sales pick up during the holidays, you can roll-out a cause marketing program.
  • Your giving strategy should be managed and measured like every other aspect of your business. Institute processes for it and think about how you can make it turn-key.
  • We’re tired of hearing how much you’ve done. How are you advancing the cause you’re passionate about? Maggie is emphatic when she says that your messaging needs to be “cause-centric, not ego-centric.”  There are no pointers for making your message cause-centric because commitment to a cause can’t be faked. Fakers talk about what they’ve given or how much they’ve done. Passionistas talk about why the cause is important and why they are excited to be supporting it.
  • You don’t have to share you numbers. Small businesses may feel chagrined (or deterred) by the amount they can contribute. But it’s not about the amount, it’s about your commitment to a cause and your ability to engage your employees and consumers in the cause (e.g., cause marketing campaigns that use percentage-of-sale or pinup tactics or event fundraisers).
  • Maggie sees giving not as a business obligation but as a benefit.

Thank Maggie or tell her what you think of the interview on Twitter.

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  1. jacqueline February 5, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    I love this! I have been advocating that small businesses get engaged in cause marketing to build community and deepen their vision of their place in the market. I recently wrote two blog posts that talk about easy, effective ways for small businesses to get on the cause marketing bandwagon! Your advice is great as well – especially about not having to share their numbers, it isn’t about competing with corporate giving and they need to feel good about what they contribute. Thanks so much for writing this!

  2. admin February 5, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    Jacqueline, thanks. Sounds like you’re doing really great work. I like your approach to having businesses deepen “their vision of their place in the market.” It important for them to own it.


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