Charity Marketing: Growing Your Business Through Charitable Giving

Frey offers ideas and strategies to help small businesses expand their marketing opportunities while helping those around them.

Many savvy small businesses are affiliating themselves with charities to market their businesses. Not only is it a primary means for developing a powerful network but also it helps others in the process. People like to associate themselves with businesses that support causes, which help disadvantaged people in a meaningful way.

Don’t think that charities are oblivious to your motivations. Most charities today understand your secondary purpose for participating in charities and are experienced at helping you receive a return on your charitable investments.

In Which Charity Should I Participate?

Choosing a charity is sometimes confusing. Each has its own demands on your time and a variety of different positions in which to contribute. Look for charities that you believe in and to which you have some affinity. Not only will it be more fun, but also you’ll be happier giving your time and means.

From a business standpoint, look for charities that will give you meaningful exposure to a large number of influential people. In my corporate consulting days most of the partners sat on the boards of various charities with other business executives. You’ll also want to volunteer your time in a position that will show your talents and skills.

If you are sponsoring a charitable event, try to choose one in which your target market would participate. For instance, if you run a senior living community, consider getting involved with charities for retired veterans. If you manage a sporting goods store, consider sponsoring a little league baseball team.

Use Publicity to Associate Your Name With That Of the Charity

Linking your name with the charitable cause is an important part of charitable marketing. Even if you are participating in a charity for altruistic reasons, there’s no reason why you should not benefit from the resulting positive exposure. Here are some ideas to maximize your exposure:

1. Publicize your donations of goods or services to charities by sending press releases and photos to the local media.

2. Include your charitable involvement in your marketing materials such as newsletters, brochures, signs, displays, advertisements, and commercials.

3. Get involved with high-profile causes that attract the media’s attention.

4. If you have given significant support to a program, ask that it be named after you or the name of your business.

5. Give away information about your charity as a part of your business transactions such as placing pamphlets in your retail outlets, having employees wear clothing or pins and buttons publicizing your charity, or placing charity information with your product when it ships.

6. Lastly, be sure to ask your charity to recognize your support in their publicity efforts.

Market Your Products and Services To The Constituencies of Your Charity

Most charities have thousands, even millions of people that either belong to the charity or who have some type of affinity with your charity. These people make excellent prospects for your products or services because of your indirect association with them.

Use these ideas to sell more of your products and services to your charity’s affinity group:

1. Direct market to the employees, clients, members, family members, and any group that is directly associated with your charity. Make this group one of your niche markets by creating a marketing program tailored to their wants and needs.

2. Advertise your products and services in the communication vehicles of your charity such as newsletters and magazines.

3. Offer special discounts and targeted promotions to people who are associated with your charity.

4. Consider offering a percentage of the sale of particular products or services as a donation to your charitable cause.

5. Develop a “membership program” or a “preferred customer program” or even a “buying club” for constituents of your charitable cause by offering special benefits to members.

Invite Your Charity to Market Your Products or Services

If you want to put your marketing in overdrive and multiply your charity marketing efforts consider inviting your charity to market for you in a way that you and your charity receive a significant benefit.

Idea # 1 – Invite your charity’s members to sell coupons for your business and keep a percentage or the entire amount of the proceeds. A good example of this would be to allow local high school band members to sell coupons to the neighborhood that you service. Auto repair shops, chiropractors, beauty salons, massage therapists, fast food restaurants can all take advantage of this tactic.

Idea # 2 – Designate specific products as “charitable” or “cause-related” products that, when sold, financially benefit your charity. Invite the charity to promote these products. For instance, if you own a barber shop, a portion of the proceeds from all haircuts done on Tuesdays could go to your charity.

Idea # 3 – Invite your charity to sell admission tickets to a special sale, celebrity appearance, or grand opening to build traffic for your business. Allow the charity to keep all the proceeds, while you benefit from the increased traffic.

Idea # 4 – Create “packages” during special times of the year such as Easter, the Fourth of July, or Memorial Day that can be donated to your charity or even sold to them at cost. They in turn can resell the packages or you can sell the packages and give a percentage to your charity.

Partner With A Charity to Target a Niche Market

Charities, like businesses, are interested in building their membership base. The best way to do this is through marketing to specific niches that are inclined to develop an affinity with your charity. Partnering with your charity to market to a niche will bring new customers to you and new members to your charity.

For example, suppose you owned a fitness center. You could partner with a health related charity for senior adults by doing targeted promotions offering them free health classes in your fitness center. Using your name and the name of your non-profit charity in your promotion will lend credibility and breed trust in your offer.

If you manage a financial planning firm you could partner with the American Association of Retired Persons and provide free tax consultations at the local library. Or suppose you invented a product such as the mentholated candle (visit You could partner with the local health clinic to jointly promote flu shots and your candle product.

Create a Co-op Business Venture With Your Charity

Taking the idea of charity partnerships a bit further you may consider establishing a full-time commercial venture with your charity. Both parties would provide specific resources to run the venture. For example, you could provide the financial funding and the charity could provide the staff, expertise, and equipment.

Although there are a lot of legal and tax issues to address with this strategy, many such ventures are being established with success.

Don’t Forget The Networking Opportunities

Perhaps the biggest advantage, from a business standpoint, to be involved with a local charity is the opportunity you’ll have to network with other like-minded professionals. If you are an independent professional such as a consultant, C.P.A., lawyer, insurance agent etc., this may be the primary source of business for your firm.

Make sure you put your new friends on your networking list and make it a point to keep in close contact with them. Send thank you cards, meet for lunch, make brief phone calls, remember birthdays, and include them in your newsletter to stay in touch.

Make sure that you attend meetings and events where other professionals will be. Volunteer to sit on boards or committees when time permits. You might even consider urging your employees to become involved in charitable networking activities to extend their sphere of influence.


Although this article has been about building your business through charities, your primary motivation should be to help other people. We should all leave this world a better place. Hundreds of opportunities exist for you to make a difference in your society.

My wife and I are personally involved in a charity called Families Supporting Adoption. We have two of the most beautiful children in the world that joined our family through the miracle of adoption. We have started a non-profit website for people who are involved in adoption to share their heartfelt stories of successful adoptions.

When I was a college student I chaired the “Gifts From Santa” program, which sent gifts purchased by students to servicemen serving overseas. I was once a young serviceman who served overseas during several holiday seasons and have experienced the loneliness of being away from my family. It was my small way of giving something back.

My wife and I have established our own little special charity for a family in Bolivia that has children with severe medical challenges. Believe it or not, our dollar goes a long way in a foreign country. This one activity has been a great blessing to our family and theirs. In fact, we probably benefit from this charitable act more than our Bolivian family does.

Everyone has a potential affinity with a charitable organization. Search one out this holiday season and enjoy the sweet feelings you’ll surely receive from helping someone else. And don’t feel ashamed to profit from your charitable giving. Hundreds of charities are searching for special businesses to help them in their cause. Find them and lend your helping hand.

David Frey is President of Marketing Best Practices Inc., a Houston-based small business marketing consulting firm. and is the senior editor of the Marketing Best Practices Newsletter featuring small business marketing best practices.