Don’t Hide Your Light Under a Bushel: Make the Most of Community Relations
Now, more than ever, major corporations are being approached to support local groups through sponsorship of events, grants and gifts. Being a good corporate citizen by supporting nonprofits and causes doesn’t have to mean little opportunity for receiving value in return. However, there are times when the nonprofit organization simply lacks the capacity or understanding of how to deliver fair value in return for support. Therefore, a corporation with solid guidelines regarding charitable giving will gain more return on its investment while helping the nonprofit organization deliver that value.
Measuring your community relations investment against some general advertising and marketing guidelines makes sense. Here are a few suggestions:
Targeting – Make sure the cause or the goals of the organization are in line with corporate philosophy and values. Expect the people being reached by the event or organization to be closely aligned with the needs and interests of your corporation’s customers. Will your organization have access to these people through the event sponsorship?
Frequency or impact – If there are opportunities for ads, signage or banners in association with the event, look for the best size and position relative to investment. Consider the number of people touched by the event, the duration of the event, attendance, pre- and post-advertising and public relations plans that will include sponsors. If the event has marquee value, are its marks and logos available to your organization for use in cross-promotional efforts?
Just like advertising investments, your goal should be repeated impressions and impact on the target audience.
Showcasing and exclusivity – Does the event provide positive opportunities for showcasing the corporation, including key spokespersons or corporate leaders? Does it provide opportunities for category exclusivity or an appropriate hierarchy of sponsor levels? If the corporation is being asked to be the only, or lead, sponsor is there opportunity to have a corporate presence in the planning process to guarantee good showcasing? As a lead sponsor are there opportunities for multiple year commitments?
Deliverability – Finally, evaluate the capacity of the organization. Does it have a well-defined budget for the event? Is there a track record of previous events? Can they quantify the value of the event to sponsors? Are there reliable attendance or audience estimates? Is the organization hiring or engaging professionals to help execute the event? What kind of planning process does the organization use for the event? Is there sufficient time and are there resources to deliver promises made in association with the event? Can the organization be trusted to manage your logo and image by meeting specified guidelines for logo use? Does the nonprofit complete the process by inventorying values delivered to sponsors?
“Don’t hide your light under a bushel” is a proverb that asks us not to hide our talents or abilities, or perhaps for corporations it means not hiding your good work. Your efforts do not have to go unnoticed. Value to your corporation for supporting worthy causes should return in a variety of ways. The community should know and appreciate your commitment to a given cause. Your corporate leadership can inspire other organizations to support important causes. The esteem of your customers, vendors and partners increases with understanding and awareness of your corporate philosophy and commitment. Employee morale improves with opportunities to be involved in worthy community events and causes. Your nonprofit partner is in a position to credibly and positively position your corporation.
Your community relations budget should be an investment in your community that provides a reasonable return. While investing in your community is important, it does not take the place of your advertising plans. Community relations should, however, work with your advertising and marketing plans.
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Katie Donovan is president of Donovan & Smith Marketing and Media Incorporated, a full- service marketing, media and public relations firm. Donovan & Smith coordinates paid media strategies for Accident Fund Insurance Company of America and is a consultant to several nonprofit organizations, particularly in the housing and community development industry. Donovan has helped several organizations craft meaningful events for raising awareness and funds.