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How Much Should Your Brand Donate?

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Corporate giving is essential for brand strategy (and to get into heaven), but how do you market it and how much should you donate? The giving average across small businesses in America is 6%. Although giving more is better than not giving at all, if you can only donate a small amount of proceeds, should you really advertise that you give away 1% of proceeds? You might come across as cheap and like you are giving a token to appear nice rather than actually be nice.

You don’t have to say what percentage you or your brand donate. That can be good in the sense that it avoids critiques of a percentage not being enough, as there are always going to be naysayers. However, lack of transparency can inspire skepticism and distrust, making your customers think, “well, that could mean anything. They could donate $1 a month.”

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So how do you avoid this problem? Clearly you should not just avoid donating altogether. It is sad that that even comes up as a possibility, but today as a brand and in the age of the internet, every step you take must be very well thought out. These days so many brands are trying to be “good” but it’s just surface level, and people see through that. It is essential that they note have a reason to think of your brand that way.

The best way to come across as a sincere, philanthropic brand is to develop a comprehensive relationship with a partner. Don’t give instances in situations that may seem one-off or only for press. Get involved with volunteering or other ways of inciting buzz around their cause. Instead of just donating money to a children’s hospital, keep things interesting by instead donating toys. You can get photos of some of your employees to show as well.

It makes me feel scuzzy and insincere to even be talking about this, but it doesn’t mean be ingenuine. Find a cause that you are passionate about, do good, have fun with it, and share that. Do good and tell your customers. It will humanize and warm up your brand, regardless of what it is. Knowing where donations go also makes it seem like less of a blackhole. It’s nice to know when brands are actually donating that money and not just talking about it.

Donating time and thoughtful items show a greater degree of initiative and effort. Any large company can throw a lot of money at a charity for a fat tax write-off, but it takes somebody who actually cares to show up and volunteer, or deliver products by hand.

I talk about “coming across” as sincere, but that really isn’t a very good way of putting it. Some creativity may be required to keep things interesting, but appearances should always be an afterthought or else it’s not coming from a good place and it will show.

Even if the amount of money you can give is above 10% of proceeds, I would say go for it and say it on your site. However, even if you have a high percentage to advertise, be sure to market more than just a number. For example, if you are in the pet space, you could have something about “feed your pup and a shelter pup.” The thought of actually feeding a shelter pup makes it less abstract and gives those donations meaning. If you don’t buy that company’s product, you will basically be preventing a shelter puppy from getting fed.

Tom’s is a great example. You buy a pair of shoes, and you give a pair of shoes to a child in need. That is a great image and it makes the price feel so much more worth it. Buying those shoes makes you feel like a good person. As the company, every quarter or so you could even do a recap about some of the children your company has helped or something. People love stuff like that and they certainly will not have buyer’s remorse.

Making the results of your philanthropic campaigns and efforts more tangible and less financial, especially from a bigger company that feels more clinical, can help the emphasis stay on the people you are helping rather than on your company. It may sound counterintuitive, but it is extremely important that helping others is just that, and that it doesn’t become a bragging fest about how “nice” you brand is.

So, when it comes to how much you should donate, there's unfortunately no right answer, but that also means there's no wrong answer! Do what you can and find a way to spin it that helps your company, which also helps those to whom you donate. You can swing marketing 5% if you also have a more comprehensive relationship with your philanthropic partner (though I would recommend some testing to achieve optimal results).


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