Community involvement has always shown a strong correlation with successful businesses. A study published in Strategic Management Journal found that philanthropy was associated with increased sales growth. A 2018 report by Nielsen Global said 55% of customers were willing to spend more at companies they shared social values with. And data from Forbes showed that nearly 70% of Millennials consider company values when making a purchase, much higher than average. In short, your values influence customer purchases.
So why does giving back help your bottom line? Several reasons. First, you’re building new connections. People who aren’t currently in the market for a new vehicle will see your dealership associated with something they care about. That sticks in their memory, and they’re more likely to think of you when it’s time for service or a new vehicle purchase. Second, it appeals to customers’ emotions. By seeing that you’re part of the community, they’ll associate your name with positivity and helping others. It’s also a great source of free publicity. And an overlooked aspect of community involvement is the positive impact it has on your employees. Community involvement is associated with lower turnover and a more productive staff. In fact, a recent study found that 86% of Millennials would consider taking a pay cut to work for a company whose values matched their own—it’s that important.
Your Playbook on Giving Back
Here are eight great ways your dealership can help your community, outside of donating money:
- Host an event—Dealerships often have large, open spaces that are perfect for events, both indoors and out. Not only does that associate you with the cause you’re supporting, it gets people walking around your dealership, where your salespeople can strike up low-pressure conversations.
- Make a donation as part of a purchase—Every winter, Subaru donates to one of several charities for every vehicle they sell. Each customer gets to choose where the donation for their purchase goes! For your store, consider a monetary donation or a donation of a product. For example, you can donate a backpack full of school supplies to a local school with every brake service.
- Sponsor a youth sports team—Getting involved in youth sports is a great way to help out the community. JM Lexus in south Florida supports Goldie’s Gang, a sports nonprofit dedicated to helping children “improve their skills and learn more about themselves in a positive environment.” It’s great advertising and it keeps the cost of youth sports low, letting even more kids get involved. Hosting a little league team is another great avenue as well. Your store can even provide the team’s gear and get free advertising because your name will be on their uniforms.
- Volunteer your time—Get your employees together to volunteer their time and efforts. This helps with teambuilding as well as building up the community. Food pantries need help stocking and distributing food. Soup kitchens need help preparing and serving food. Parks, beaches, and highways need trash picked up.
- Use the skills you already have—Your employees have a wide range of talents that can benefit your community! Your Service Technicians and Advisors can hold basic car clinics, like on how to change a tire, jump a dead battery, or check oil levels. Many dealerships provide dinner during these seminars and have technicians available to answer any questions. Employees who are certified as Child Passenger Safety technicians can make sure car seats are installed properly. The list of possibilities is endless.
- Organize transport—Most dealerships have a fleet of loaner vehicles or used vehicles at their disposal. These vehicles can be used to transport people and goods for local charities. All the food in the world can’t help the hungry if it doesn’t get to those who need it.
- Barbeque—Have a big cookout at your dealership (or rent a portable smoker for the day) and provide food for the community. Whether people are at your store for sales, service, or just happen to be walking by, they’re always happier on a full stomach—and you’ll be giving back to your community.
- Encourage employees—An employee match program can help your employees with the charitable gifts they already make. You’ll be giving back to your community and strengthening the connection your employees feel with your organization. Ask employees for ideas about local charities, events, and causes they feel strongly about as potential places to help. If your employees are passionate about a cause, the community at large is, too.
And this is just a short list—your dealership can help the community in dozens of ways. One thing to keep in mind when giving back: you’ve got to go through the proper channels. Make sure your events and charitable donations have the necessary approvals from officials. Also, make sure your donations are properly documented and filed for tax purposes.
Get the Word Out
When you’re planning an event or starting a new initiative, it’s important to let the community know about what you’re doing. Promote your charity through email, mail, and social campaigns to your current and prospective customers to get groundswell. Your automotive marketing provider should be ready to create professional, engaging custom campaigns for you. That way, you’ll attract more attention, both for your dealership and for the charity.
Engaging monthly newsletters are another way to promote charitable contributions, both before the event and after. You can feature an article ahead of time to generate interest and boost attendance. Talk up the charity you’re supporting and the fun things that attendees can expect at your event, such as food, live music, or raffles. And then after, your newsletter could talk about the success of the event, like how much money was raised or how many pets were adopted. This acknowledges the efforts of everyone involved and shows the rest of the community your commitment. For the follow-up, be sure to include pictures from the event. A best practice here is to be factual about your good deeds—you don’t want to sound like you’re bragging.
Finally, promote your efforts on your website, social accounts, and in-store. You can do this by creating banner ads online and banners to hang in your dealership. Colorful t-shirts are attention-grabbers and help build camaraderie amongst your employees. You’ll attract more customers and more charitable partnerships, and you’ll extend your reach even farther.
Be Part of Something Bigger
When customers see you are committed to the community—and not just looking to turn a profit—they’ll gravitate toward your dealership. Giving back drives both first-time customer traffic and customer retention. Your staff will be more engaged and happier to work for a company that’s invested in their community. And you’ll be helping those in need. That’s a win-win-win situation.
Director of Professional Services