I’ve been critical of the Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness campaign for some time. It’s not so much the campaign itself as it is the companies that jump on its bandwagon, rolling out a slew of pink ribbon adorned products in the name of raising awareness and funds. These relationships can appear insincere. Customers and clients can perceive that the business is only trying to appear to have a community conscious and make a buck or two with promotional merchandise. After all, heart disease remains the leading killer of women in the US. Cancer ranks in the top ten, but not exclusively breast cancer.
So as a business owner or manager truly interested in doing a greater good, how do you select an organization with which to partner?
- Poll your employees and customers. Ask them which charitable organizations are important to them? Which do they personally support? Why?
- Ask yourself and your management team, what organizations does it make sense for our business to team with? There are tens of thousands of excellent charitable organizations that are highly underpublicized, yet make significant contributions to the lives of even more people every day.
- Given what your business does, ask, can we provide a product or service which will benefit the charitable organization? For example, if you sell skis, a winter coat drive would not be seen as a stretch. A coat drive would fall in the scope of your business. Likewise, Verizon Wireless collects phones through it’s HopeLine(R) program and donates them to organizations which serve survivors of domestic violence. A logical fit for a provider of wireless phones.
- Identify and share personal stories that connect to the nonprofits you are considering, even looking to these personal stories first for inspiration. A personal connection underscores a businesses commitment to a cause and can help make other company employees even more passionate about the cause you’ve decided to get behind.
It doesn’t add any credibility to your company when asked,” Why does your company support WXYZ nonprofit?” and senior executives respond with, “It seemed like as good a group as any.”
Does your company support the American Red Cross because an employee’s mother has been suffering from a rare, and not often discussed, blood disease? Is the mother willing to share her story to help people understand the need for research, how the group helped her and demonstrate that the work of the American Red Cross deserves her support? Has a co-worker struggled with Diabetes and colleagues have first hand experience with how it has impacted his life? Tell these stories.
At the end of the day, you may decide the best place to direct the efforts of your businesses philanthropic efforts is at a campaign like the Pink Ribbon campaign. That’s okay. Do your research and feel that you can make a difference in the nonprofit partner you select- for the right reasons and not just because it’s fashionable.