As the holidays approach, charitable organizations are really starting to ramp up their outreach and marketing in order to capitalize on the ‘season of giving’ to come. If you’ve ever considered philanthropy or charitable marketing as a strategy for your business, now may be the perfect time to think of creative ways to get involved.

What are the benefits of charitable marketing for your business? There are several. One being that it builds goodwill for your business and establishes positive associations for your brand. (We posted a full article on branding through philanthropy awhile back that might be helpful.) Charitable marketing is also a great way to gain exposure for your business by leveraging the audience and trading on the recognition of another brand — the charity itself. Finally, your charitable activities give you something new to talk about on social media, in your own email marketing, in press releases, and elsewhere, in order to drum up traffic to your website and your store.

Not sure where to begin? We’ve put together 8 ideas for charitable marketing strategies to get you started!

1. Sponsor or co-sponsor a charitable event. This is the most standard idea on the list, but it’s a good one. Having a booth or tablecloths or really anything with your brand, in addition to having your name on the sponsors list, is great for brand recognition. This is especially true if your brand is somehow related with the event – sincerely or comically — like a doughnut shop sponsoring a marathon. Read more about successful event sponsorship here.

2. Create a special limited edition product for a cause. Seek out a charity in your community that you think you could make a product for. It would be something that the charity itself could sell, or something that you’d sell on their behalf. Just make sure you clear all the details with the charity first! An example might be a personal care shop making special edition pink soaps to support a breast cancer charity.

3. Donate your product or service to a charity auction. Everyone loves an auction, silent or otherwise. Make your business part of the excitement! Everyone in attendance will get to hear about your product or service being offered from the auctioneer (or in writing if it’s a silent auction) and hearing people bidding on your item will make those unfamiliar with your business think you must be pretty great.

4. Collect donations at your location for a charity. Sometimes called ‘embedded giving’ this is a very effective collection method because people are already spending money on themselves and feel more inclined to be charitable as a result. Partner with a local charity (or national organization if you prefer) and ask guests when they check out if they’d like to donate an additional dollar for a cause. The benefit to your business? Not only does it help customers associate your brand with philanthropy, you will also be mentioned in the charity’s press releases — “XYZ Business raised $25,000 for our cause!”

5. Host an event that gives proceeds to a cause. A great example of this is RSVVP, a program in central North Carolina where participating restaurants give 10% of their profits on a designated day to a local food charity. RSVVP has a lot of brand recognition of its own, so the participating restaurants benefit from that, in addition to being listed in all the online and printed materials for the event.

6. Collect physical donations at your brick-and-mortar location. Find out if any of your local charities will be hosting a food or clothing drive this holiday season and might be interested in setting up a drop-off spot at your location. They will publicize the name and address of your business for you, and the people who come in to drop items off will likely stick around and do a little holiday shopping.

7. Donate your space for a charity event. After you close your doors for the evening, or before you open them for the day, why not let a charity use the space you’re already paying for bring in some folks for an event? In-kind donations like these are a great way to get involved, do something good, and bring new people to your place of business at little to no cost to you.

8. Finally, have your employees or best customers represent as a team. Getting your brand out into the community is important, and so is fostering good relationships. Do both by creating a team composed of your employees and/or some loyal customers to run a 5K or participate in some other fundraising event. They’ll have a great time, and they’ll be wearing custom t-shirts advertising your business in the process.

However you partner with a charity this holiday season, it’s important to be aware of local and federal laws regarding charitable giving and tax write-offs. Once you have a plan in place, write down everything and have representatives from the charity sign off on it.

Have you tried any of the strategies above? Anything you’d add to this list? Let us know!

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the Online Content Specialist and resident blogger at Webs. Loves branding, marketing, whales. Get more from Sarah on Webs’ Blog and Google+.

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