How to build a successful charitable relationship Featured

5:31pm EDT January 3, 2012
How to build a successful charitable relationship


One of the emotional benefits of owning or leading a business is the sense of fulfillment that comes with using your size and scale to benefit a worthy cause.

There are certainly compelling business reasons to build a corporate charitable partnership, but when doing so, be sure to keep your No. 1 goal at the helm: help the cause.

Know that the ROI will be difficult to calculate on a balance sheet. Make the choice to be OK with that, and move forward with the partnership because it is the right thing to do. Trust that the financial benefits will be felt over time.

Philosophically, no one would argue that supporting a charity is awesome, but when it comes to asking colleagues, clients and business partners to contribute their time and money, you’ll often find not everyone is leaping out of their seats at once to pitch in.

Take that in stride. Relationships are built over time. The key to building a successful charitable partnership is choosing the right cause, getting the internal team on board and encouraging consumer participation.

Choose the right cause

There are hundreds of fantastic organizations out there, but you want to pick the cause that is just right for your company. What unique goods and services can your company offer a charitable partner?

It’s important to pick an organization that can truly benefit from the level contribution that you are realistically able to provide. Oftentimes, the consumer reach that a corporate partner can offer to spread a charitable organization’s message is its most valuable asset. What assets can your business bring to the table?

The emotional connection with the cause is equally as important. Putting a face behind the fundraising inspires participation. Can the charitable organization offer a spokesperson that will resonate with your audience?

If your company is national, your charitable partner should be national. If your company has local outlets and connects with local communities, your charitable partner should have local chapters, as well, and the money that is raised local should stay local.

In other words, determine what your company is able to contribute (time, services, goods, cash, etc.), then decide what factors will be most important to the constituents you expect to support the cause.

Get the team on board

Donating to a cause means writing a big check. Creating a charitable partnership is a much bigger undertaking. First you’ll want to get your internal team on board. This means clearly communicating the details of the partnership, the attributes of the cause (once again if you have an actual spokesperson, even better) and what is expected from the members of the team. Before you can get your customers involved, you’ve got to get your team to be emotionally invested in the partnership. The best way is to lead them in a hands-on project with the organization. Reward people who take a leadership role in participating and make it a fun, team-building activity. Now it is no longer just a cause they have read about on paper, but they have actually worked with the organization and personally contributed.

Encourage consumer participation

It is no secret that consumers are attracted to brands that support a cause. According to a recent study conducted by Emory University with 1,600 Moe’s Southwest Grill consumers, seeing a charitable message at the point of purchase will increase return visits, intent to recommend, brand trust and satisfaction. It’s meaningful to get your charitable message in front of your customers. Encouraging participation connects your brand with their desire to contribute to their community. If a guest can feel that he or she has contributed simply by choosing to affiliate with your brand, then that is a win for all parties. 

Moe’s Southwest Grill selected the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, whose mission is to cure and treat type 1 diabetes, because we felt that it met our criteria and offered an opportunity for our corporate team, our franchise partners and our customers to get involved at a variety of levels.

When you are ready to commit to creating a charitable partnership, be fearless and jump in with both feet. Resist the urge to do an ROI analysis and keep in mind that you are making a positive impact on a nonprofit organization that needs your help. Trust that your genuine intent will resonate with both internal and external audiences, and when your bottom line feels it, too — well, that’s just an added bonus. 

Paul Damico is president of Atlanta based Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-casual restaurant franchise with more than 400 locations nationwide. Damico has been a leader in the food service industry for longer than 20 years with companies, such as SSP America, FoodBrand LLC and Host Marriott. He can be reached at