Backing a charity makes good business sense

RNLI fish supperI am hosting my first ever fundraiser tomorrow in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI). I have absolutely no idea how much money I will raise or how many people to expect, but I hope donations will amount to at least a modest £100.

It has also led me to ponder the relationship between business and charity and how they both benefit each other, particularly after I had a very nice Twitter exchange with the RNLI. Admittedly, the RNLI’s social media team was engaging with me as a supporter of their fish supper fundraising campaign and whilst I am not as active as I should be on social media, any clients or potential clients who saw the exchange would no doubt have a slightly enhanced view of me after seeing me doing ‘my bit’.

It is unlikely to net me any new business directly, but having potentially caught their eye, it may mean some clients think of me when their next copywriting project comes up or they need content written. And not because I’ve done such a wonderful thing, my contribution is meagre compared to many other tireless fundraisers I know, but because I have come to their attention in a slightly different way than usual. Some of them may even read this and suddenly realise just the person to write their own company blog was right under their nose after all!

So now you’re convinced that supporting a charity is good for your business image, how do you go about selecting the right cause?

We all love the seaside although some of us prefer life on the ocean wave

We all love the seaside although some of us prefer life on the ocean wave

It could be any number of reasons. There may be an obvious connection, a day care nursery, for example, is likely to support a children’s charity or a local children’s hospice, whilst a company may back a cause close to the heart of an employee or customer. I chose the RNLI because the fish supper idea appealed to my social side, but mainly because my son is a sailor, albeit a dinghy sailor on the River Thames although last summer he spent a week in the Solent gaining his Competent Crew and has his sights set on sailing the tall ships next year. We hope he never has to rely on the RNLI, but it is good to know they are there if the vessel on which he was crewing found itself in trouble.

Research from Foresters in 2013 provides a strong business case for backing a charity. The survey of 1,100 people in the UK found 89% thought businesses should support charities and their local communities, and 59% thought companies that did so would benefit from increased profits. Those surveyed also said if two companies sold the same product for the same price, the final decision for 82% would be determined by whether it was involved in the local community or backed a charity.

Nearly half (47%) said they would be more likely to buy from companies that donated money to charity, and 53% said they were more likely to buy from businesses that did good work in their local communities.

I hope my little gathering raises a few quid for the RNLI and whilst my reason for hosting was not motivated by potential business gains, in fact, any company which backs a charity thinking only of their bottom line is likely to find their strategy backfires, any spin off I may receive professionally would, of course, be welcome. However, it is one of those intangible things and understanding whether my small charitable contribution makes any difference to my business will be practically impossible to gauge. Sometimes, though, businesses should just do the ‘right’ thing and by and large, those that do are likely to reap the benefits.

The RNLI’s Fish Supper campaign has been launched to remind us that the volunteer crew can be called away at any time, often leaving the family table as dinner is served. All proceeds from Fish Supper will help provide the best equipment and training for RNLI volunteers.

Last year the RNLI lifeboats launched 8,462 times around the UK and Ireland, rescued 8,727 people and saved 368 lives. Volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service from 236 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. The RNLI also has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team.

If you are in the High Wycombe area on Saturday 10 October and would like to pop in for fish fingers and chips and make a donation, you are most welcome. And whatever charity or fundraising you do, don’t forget to join in the social conversation!

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