A Blueprint for Charitable Giving: Corporate Donations, Community Relations and Marketing Are All More Efficient When You Integrate Them as Part of a Unified Strategic Plan

By Love-Johnson, Michelle | ABA Bank Marketing, July-August 2004 | Go to article overview

A Blueprint for Charitable Giving: Corporate Donations, Community Relations and Marketing Are All More Efficient When You Integrate Them as Part of a Unified Strategic Plan


Love-Johnson, Michelle, ABA Bank Marketing


We all know this truism: Effective community relations and charitable-giving programs can boost both your image and your business. But some banks fail to recognize how important it is to integrate these programs with other marketing activities.

In this article, I will explain the process for creating a strategic plan that brings together all three dements: community relations, charitable giving and marketing.

In brief, the process works like this: First, identify the issues that provide the most benefit and value to your organization. Commit to these issues and develop a suitable budget. Second, develop a decision-making process to review all incoming requests for support. The process will enable you to make decisions in light of your institution's goals. Third, gauge what sort of reaction you hope to obtain from your actions (i.e. increased publicity with the local media, attendance at sponsored events). Fourth, measure and evaluate each donation or community-relations event, and match this against your expectations. How well you score on this measurement determines your rate of success.

These four parts to the process are expressed by the acronym C.A.R.E. This stands for:

C: Commitment

A: Alignment

R: Reaction

E: Evaluation

Let's look at each of these aspects in greater detail.

Commitment

Community relations consists of a bank's planned, current and future participation with and within its community in hopes of maintaining and enhancing its environment in order to benefit both the bank and the community. Often, community relations is viewed only as a "courtesy" performed outside of the other activities executed to advance the bank's growth. This is a limited perspective.

As you plan a campaign, list the specific goals you want accomplished, but make sure they're reasonable. Having your plan mapped out keeps you focused and provides for easier tracking of results. To help with this, chart your planned activities for the year on a grid, with the months of the year providing the "X" axis and the activity planned being the "Y" axis. Then, add extra columns behind each activity that can be checked off once the activity is completed. This is a simple way to keep track of where you stand from month to month, and provides an easy reporting and measurement tool.

A properly executed community-relations plan should provide both the bank and community with tangible results, not simply "nice feelings" about your organization. But maintain consistency--don't put all your efforts into one six-month period and then neglect community relations for the remainder of the year. Maintain a manageable level consistently year-to-year.

A bank's charitable giving should buttress its community-relations efforts. When operating separate from each other, they are not nearly as effective. Community relations should work to get your bank's message out to the community, establishing it as a responsible corporate citizen and neighbor, and charitable giving should show support for issues that exist beyond the walls of your building. In backing local causes, your institution establishes itself as one that has a vested interest in the community--a bank that is about more than making money. Charitable giving is actionable, effective and a win-win for your institution and the cause that it is supporting.

Alignment

You've committed to a community-relations and corporate-giving program, now identify the "best fits" to receive your bank's support. Begin with areas that are important to your institution, its leadership and employees. Also, it's best if the causes you select align with your corporate culture. Some examples are education, health-related causes, economic development or even the arts. Charitable donations should reflect the values of the institution as a whole--not just be a random cause to "throw money at. …

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