Courtney Eckerle

Marketing Management: Incorporating giving into your marketing department or agency

November 20th, 2012

In the MarketingSherpa 2012 Executive Guide to Marketing Personnel, 52% of marketers from large companies agreed that their marketing departments’ potential are undermined because “management is autocratic, uses poor skills, is not encouraging, or has poor ethics.”

If this is a challenge you face as a leader, your problems run deeper than any one blog post can fix. After all, as John C. Maxwell has said, “There is no such thing as ‘business ethics;’ there’s just ethics.”

However, one way you can improve your department or agency and avoid being an autocratic, unethical leader (ouch) is by incorporating community giving into your team’s workflow.

Sometimes it can be difficult to carve out the time and resources to give back to the community, but the rewards for you and your staff are too numerous to ignore.

As an employee, to me the benefits are obvious. It feels good to not only support my coworkers with their philanthropic projects, but to know that they would similarly support me.

Click to enlarge

An Instagram photo of MECLABS employees at the Susan G. Komen walk in Jacksonville, Fla.

Participating in events also provides a great bonding experience, and gives employees a chance to work together outside of the office.

However, as great as it is for employees, it can be harsh as a manager who has to answer to the bottom line. Reid Stone, CEO, HEROfarm, and Kurtis Loftus, President and Creative Director, The Kurtis Group, talk about how to balance the benefits of giving back with the realities of business.

“It benefits the bottom line when all of a sudden employees and managers are all communicating in a better way … which ultimately leads to more profit for the company. So internally, it’s phenomenal,” Reid said.


It starts from the top

It all starts “at the top and just kind of trickles down,” said Reid. “For any company, large [or] small, it’s really the same way. The company is going to adopt the feelings and the attitude of the people at the top.”

Kurtis follows this philosophy himself, and has spearheaded many projects and events in his community. Aside from lending creative talent to local causes, Kurtis runs in marathons and took it upon himself last year to break a world surfing record to benefit a local breast cancer charity.

It all comes back to communication, Reid said, for charitable projects to go smoothly and for an office to enjoy the benefits.

“The more you communicate, the more, the easier it is to get into the lives of your employees and for employees to get into the lives of their management.”

To pick a project that works best for your team, a few things are necessary to be proactive:

  • Work charity into your policies
  • Research how similarly sized  organizations have integrated charity
  • Have a 20- to 30-minute session with your team to find out what projects they are passionate about, and brainstorm together


Giving back is a powerful recruiting tool

“When you have a talented potential employee, they have options, and they probably know that they have options,” Reid said.

If you want conscious and responsible people on your team, you have to understand the aspects of a company that are going to appeal to that type of person.

Over the past few years, companies, big and small, are adopting these aspects because the types of people they want on their teams are increasingly looking for socially conscious companies.

“It’s a little bit of give and take,” Reid said, citing companies like Google, which are making it work. “It’s an aspect that can differentiate your company.”

Forbes posted an article this year called, “The Best Gift You Can Give Your Employees” – spoiler: The best gift was corporate giving programs that are in line with employees’ passions and values.


The company that cares together stays together

One major benefit of a company charitable project is the even level it provides for all employees, Reid said.

“If you have somebody – maybe it’s even a superior – who has been barking orders at you all week, or asking you to get this or send me that, all of a sudden you kind of switch the roles a little bit.”

Empowering an employee to take the lead on a charitable project they are passionate about not only shows qualities that might not otherwise be apparent in everyday responsibilities, but it also “creates a much better relationship,” said Reid.

“One thing for a lot of folks is … being loyal has kind of gone out the window,” said Reid. “I would say employee-company relations have gotten very superficial over the years, and people know that they can be let go at a moment’s notice and vice versa.”

With the current climate, displaying a strong sense of caring, both about a community and the projects and issues that are important to employees, can go a long way in building employee loyalty.

“When a company shows that it cares about what’s important to an individual, it … takes us back to when there was the familial atmosphere in companies,” Reid said.


Volunteering will refresh your team

“The burnout factor in our industry is pretty high,” Kurtis said.

Kurtis has gone through a few periods of feeling burnt out, but believes giving back helps to keep a broader perspective.

After working in marketing and advertising for almost 30 years, Kurtis said it hasn’t always been easy, but using his skills in these ways helps him keep a broader perspective of his work.

“You are going to hit a wall and wonder why you are doing this. But when you go to the nonprofit side of it – back to the giving and using your talents and skills to see something happen — you can get out of that selfish realm,” Kurtis said.

Reid agrees it is easy to become burned out, but cites work HEROfarm did for an event with the New Orleans Mission. According to Reid, it was “one of the proudest days” the company has ever had, adding, “Everybody left with their heads held high,” despite the time crunch.

“Those are [the] kind of things that if we could do that every day, we absolutely would. Unfortunately, pro-bono clients don’t always pay the bills,” said Reid.

When a company is allowed to focus on other projects, “you start bringing in a new aspect that never would have been brought to the table otherwise. So it is really good to expand your projects and your outlook,” Reid said.


Build your visibility within the community

“[Community charities] are hurting just like the small business owners are hurting,” Kurtis said.

“I have a passion for where I live and work, it has just always been part of who I am and what makes me up as a business owner,” Kurtis added. His passion for advertising and marketing is what leads him to see the opportunities for him to help nonprofits generate growth and revenue.

“I know my role is here in the community, and I really have embraced that role,” said Kurtis, who dedicates about half of his charitable projects to local establishments.

Building your visibility in the community is all about letting people know what is important to the company, according to Reid.

He says there is a delicate way to brag about your projects. At HEROfarm, Reid says charities that fit with the company’s values are chosen, and then they will put out the information. Social media, especially, can be a great way for a lot of people to see your team in action on charitable projects.

Various channels can be good for spreading the word, including:

  • Email newsletter
  • Blog
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Company website

Content through these channels that comes from or heavily features your employees can go a long way in presenting a united front of giving, which will leave a big impression.


Know how to fit charity into your budget

“It’s like anything – you have to be very cognizant of how much time is going into it,” Reid said.

According to Reid, the size of your company should be the biggest factor in choosing charitable projects. HEROfarm donates at least one program or account per year.

“The bigger your company is, maybe the more projects you can have,” said Reid. Even a small company can make it work, “We just have to be a little bit stricter with ourselves,” he added.

When choosing which charitable projects to take on, it may be necessary to choose between two paths:

  • Be associated heavily with one charity
  • Associate with multiple charities in a lesser capacity

Kurtis added that his coworkers are instrumental in helping him balance his time between charitable and community projects and client work.

He admitted to occasionally going “a little overboard on the community giving side, and I am not watching my business as best I can,” but holding weekly staff meetings to take inventory of projects is vital as a time management “reality check.”

Beyond the budget, a strong affirmation that supporting the local community is good for business is what guides Kurtis in keeping a balance and selecting the projects he can allow himself to do.

In spite of any strain on time or budget, Kurtis added, “I can talk for hours and hours about why we do it and what it means to us.”


Related Resources:

10 Great Charities That Need Holiday Help (via Main Street)

Marketing Career: How to overcome dissatisfaction in marketing jobs

Top 20 Companies on Social Media (via Social Media Delivered)

Random Apps of Kindness: Using mobile for nonprofit and cause-based marketing

Internal Marketing: The 3 people you must sell to in your own office (via MarketingExperiments)

Courtney Eckerle

About Courtney Eckerle

With a focus on aspirational, customer-first marketing, Courtney’s goal has been to produce clear, interesting and actionable external content for MarketingSherpa readers. This has included writing over 300 case studies, moderating live event interviews, and producing video content. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Mass Communications and Film Studies from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and was a correspondent for USA Today College prior to joining MECLABS Institute.

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