The ultimate entrepreneurial goal is to create a product that changes the world in some way. Regardless of how you plan to make your impact, doing so requires a strong network of community support. Having a great support system that complements your organization’s strengths and goals can be what hoists you into benevolent stardom. The bigger your support system, the greater impact you can have.
When my brother and I set out to launch our charitable organization, Bike for a Kid, we sat down and mapped out our greatest strengths and weaknesses. After deliberating, we decided that our biggest strength was our ability to generate revenue and create key partnerships. Our biggest weakness, we decided, was that we had a hard time identifying the children in our community who were truly in need. The last thing we wanted was a child loading his free bike into his mom’s Escalade for the drive home.
So we leveraged our partnership skills to address our biggest weakness. By linking with community organizations, we were able to focus on our strengths -- buying bikes -- and leave it to our partners to find the children we could serve.
By garnering support for your charitable organization, you will quickly increase your brand’s image and build trust between your organization and community.
TOMS, a footwear company that helps provide shoes to children in need, has mastered the art of rallying the community behind its vision. According to the company’s website, its “One for One” shoe-donation program has provided more than 2 million children with medication and shoes. This was all made possible through the company’s carefully constructed "tribe" of partners and community supporters.
Adding a successful charitable endeavor to your startup is a win-win for everyone: You’re making a positive impact in your community while rallying support for your brand and business.
Here are five ways to successfully gain community buy-in for your outreach program:
People can be skeptical of new charities they know nothing about, especially if you and your startup are unfamiliar to them. Volunteering in your community will get your name, face and brand out there, allowing people to see that you and your company are genuine in your outreach efforts.
Sometimes, all you have to do is express your vision and ask for help. This worked for Bike for a Kid, and it could definitely work for you. If you can eloquently and enthusiastically describe your cause to the right audience and show them how they can help, they’re usually more than willing to get involved.
3. Share your story
Talk about your vision and your cause on your blog and social-media accounts. Word of mouth is an extremely powerful vehicle, so broadcast your cause and give it a reason to spread. Sharing your story will create emotional ties that help others become invested in your dream.
4. Start somewhere
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the great charities of the world. It takes time, energy and dedication to generate enough revenue and community involvement to make a program a huge success. Don’t get discouraged if your movement doesn’t grow as quickly as you had hoped. With the right amount of passion and work ethic, people will take notice of your mission, and growth will happen organically.
5. Follow through
The people who support your cause are donating their valuable time and hard-earned money, so if you say you’re going to do something, make sure you actually do it. If you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, people will immediately question your legitimacy and wonder where the money is going. Transparency is key for charitable organizations.
Charity is all about giving back to the community, and creating partnerships is a great first step toward success. If you genuinely believe in your mission and can passionately articulate your cause, key partners will flock to your side -- and your customers will follow suit.