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3 Tips to Successfully Market a Charitable Partnership



3 Tips to Successfully Market a Charitable Partnership

Giving back to the communities in which a business operates is important for business owners to consider. Investing time and money in your community is a great way to give back to those who have helped support your business. It demonstrates to your employees and customers alike that you care about more than simply profits. There are many factors to consider when you select a charitable organization to partner with your business because you’ve now associated yourself and your company with the charity. Further, once the partnership is set up, it is important to spread the word.


It should be a partnership, not a sponsorship.

How can you set yourself up for success? Make sure the organization you partner with has a strong network. You don’t want to choose a charity solely based on their ability to market your business, but you are creating a partnership, not just a sponsorship. If the charitable organization has a strong following, does well in the communities in which they operate, and has existing marketing tools in place, they can help spread the word on the partnership, which also allows them to increase awareness for their cause. You’re helping them and they’re helping you; that creates a winning situation for both groups.

The charity can feature your business and the work you are doing for them on their website and in their newsletters to their supporters. Each organization will approach this differently, but they may start with something as simple and effective as adding your logo to their website and emails with a “sponsored by” or “funded by” notation. You should also work together to create regular features on the charity’s social media pages or newsletters that are educational and fun for subscribers.


Don’t spend a lot of money on advertising.

You want most of the money you spend on the charitable partnership to go straight to the charity you are supporting. Buying expensive ads is not an efficient way to market the partnership or help the charity achieve their long-term charitable goals. Use your grassroots marketing techniques, including public relations, organic social media posts, and emails to your customers and subscribers. Your employees should also be trained on the partnership and be prepared to talk about why your business supports this organization specifically. Equipping employees with training materials and explaining what you are doing for the organization and why you are doing it is important.

Both organizations’ websites are also a great place to market the partnership. Add a page to your website to educate your customers on the cause and why it is important to your company. Your charitable partner should acknowledge your business and its contributions on their site and materials to encourage their followers to support your business as well.


Focus on co-branding.

In addition to the awareness you raise with external grassroots marketing, take advantage of your retail space to fully co-brand the partnership. For example, when Penn Station East Coast Subs partnered with the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network, we looked at ways to raise the profile of the partnership in our restaurants. We designed new uniform T-shirts to promote the organization. We also added their logo to represent the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network on our sandwich wrap paper. We created public service announcements to run on our in-store custom music stream. All of these were relatively simple and inexpensive ways to educate our customers about the charitable partnership in our restaurants. In the future, we may even continue to grow where we promote the partnership by adding collateral like drink cups, napkins, carry-out bags, window clings, counter cards and tags on print ads or radio spots. These types of branding will be especially important when you have a fundraiser or event you are publicizing, all the while recognizing the ultimate goal is to help the charity and let your customers know how and why you are supporting them.

All of the preparation and time you spend co-branding and marketing your partnership year-round will pay off during any fundraiser you do. Customers will already know you support the specific charity, and hopefully, they should also be educated on the value of the cause via the work you’ve done already. This will make your fundraisers more successful. It’s important not to ask your customers to donate all of the time—you don’t want to create fatigue, annoyance, or indifference—but educating them on your partnership year-round will prepare them to donate when the time comes to raise money.


The goal for your charitable partnership should be for your brand and the charity you choose to be thought of synonymously. This is, of course, especially important when you are leading up to or in the middle of a big fundraiser, but the partnership should also be promoted year-round to raise awareness both for the charitable organization and your business’ commitment to supporting the cause.

Craig Dunaway has been president of Penn Station since 1999. Before joining Penn Station Inc., Dunaway was a partner at the regional accounting firm of McCauley, Nicolas & Company, LLC in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he had worked since 1982 in various staff and managerial positions. Dunaway has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Indiana University and is still a licensed CPA. Dunaway formerly had ownership interests in a Papa John’s® franchisee that owned 11 stores, and he served as the secretary/treasurer for that Papa John’s® franchisee. In addition, he had ownership interests in Coastal Cheesesteaks, LLC (headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina) until June 2011 and in Louisville Cheesesteaks, LLC (headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky) until January 2014, both of which are Penn Station franchisees. While a shareholder in those Penn Station franchisees, Dunaway served as secretary/treasurer. Penn Station was named one of the Best Franchises to Buy by Forbes in 2016 and 2018 and one of the Best Franchise Deals by QSR Magazine in 2016 and 2017.