Business Giving is Good for Business

Kaaren Northrop and her family are the epitome of business generosity. As the proprietors of Main Street Market, their company has long been known as one of the most generous in Northern Door County.

“My mom always says that we give back because this community has been so good to us,” she says. “I would have a hard time just coming to work, doing my business, then going home. We get a lot of satisfaction out of contributing what we can to this community and to affect people’s lives.”

Grace Rossman of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans feels the same way. “People’s lives are so fragile,” she says. “If we are in a position to make a difference, we want to help. It’s one of the reasons we get up and go to work.”

“There is something that happens when you start to give back,” says Rossman. “It makes your whole life so much fuller.”

Dick Hauser and his partners at Pinkert Law Firm regularly give pro bono legal counsel and sponsor community events. “My partners and I get great personal satisfaction from being generous,” says Hauser. “We like helping people in need and celebrating the arts. We give back to many different causes because Door County is our home. We want this to be the best community it can be.”

Inge Bacon and her accounting firm, Inge Alverson Bacon CPA, is known for helping charities prepare their financial statements and providing training for their boards.

“There are blessings that I have been given,” says Bacon. “I want to give back with both time and money. Goodness knows how much it’s needed.”

Businesses like Main Street Market, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Pinkert Law Firm, and Inge Alverson Bacon CPA, all give back because the people that run them are generous themselves. The personal rewards of sharing of their time and financial resources pay enormous dividends in terms of good will and better friendships. These folks would be generous even if no one ever knew what they were doing.

But for some companies, the personal rewards aren’t enough to motivate them to share their blessings. Thankfully, even if you don’t want to give for personal reasons, there is ample evidence to show that doing “good” in the community is also good for your business.

The second annual Do Well Do Good Public Opinion Survey was recently released, and it continues to demonstrate the strong link between the charitable nature of a company and the consumer’s willingness to buy their products or services.

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of Americans say that corporations should support charities with financial donations from their profits. The Do Well Do Good Survey says that 75 percent of consumers feel that way. Other polls have shown that percentage to be even higher.

But the Do Well Do Good Survey proves that consumers don’t just “feel” that it’s good for companies to give to charity, they’re willing to spend their dollars in ways that back it up.

Products or services that are directly tied to a charitable cause are attractive to consumers. Consider that Target offers a whole line of products in which a percentage of sales are donated to breast cancer research. Last year, 55 percent of consumers purchased a product or service because it had a link to a charitable cause they care about.

Charitable giving is also a good tool to convince the public to try a new product or service. When Walmart opens up a new store, you’ll normally see them make several significant gifts to local charities in their new community. Walmart knows that being good to the community is also good business. Sixty-one percent of consumers say they’d give a new product or company a try if some of their corporate profits are donated to charities the consumer cares about.

The great news for business is that the Do Well Do Good Survey finds that a majority of Americans are willing to pay more for a product or service when a percentage of profits are donated to a good cause. For the product that costs just a dollar, 57 percent of Americans would buy the slightly more expensive product if it had a charitable benefit. Even for a service that costs $1,000, 69 percent of consumers are willing to pay more if they knew that part of their payment was being given back to a charity they care about. Although the percentage of willing people varies by the underlying price, at every price level more than half of consumers will pay more if part of their payment is returned to the community in the form of a charitable gift.

If currying favor with consumers isn’t reason enough to convince a business to give back, consider the repercussions for refusing to do so. The Do Well Do Good Survey found that 38 percent – nearly two out of every five customers – will switch to a more generous competitor’s product or service if they conclude that the first business is not giving back enough to charity.

Thankfully, most businesses in Door County are run by people who are generous because of the personal rewards and a belief that it’s the right thing to do. But if that’s not reason enough for your company, remember that giving back is also good business.

This column by Bret Bicoy originally appeared in the Peninsula Pulse on February 3, 2012.

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