This past week, it was announced with much fanfare, that Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, will donate $3 billion to help cure disease.  According to PC Magazine, the effort will be managed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, to which Zuckerberg committed $45 billion of his personal fortune last fall.

It is no secret that in the past decade the giants in the technology industry such as Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, have taken charitable giving to a new level.  Their thoughtful campaigns and foundations have laid the groundwork to rid disease such as tuberculosis, and provided communities around the world with the means to test and vaccinate.

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Charitable giving, no matter the size of the donation, is an important initiative that every business should treat as a strategic campaign.  Public sentiment is clearly more positive with brands that give back to the community.  A recent Nielsen survey found that many consumers prefer to buy from companies that give back to society. Of those surveyed, 66% say they prefer to buy products and services from “…companies that have implemented programs to give back to society” … and 62% prefer to work for those businesses as well.

Entrepreneur Magazine reporter, David Hagenbuch, writes, “…virtually any donation is a good donation. If a firm is willing and able to share its profits with a worthy cause, that’s great…. Granted, some cause-related marketing slips below the floor of decency… (such as) when a for-profit company …spends even money on advertising to tell others the good it’s done.”

Most small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs) have learned that with the advent of social media, a strategic charitable campaign (that is honest and decent) is a triple win: it can raise employee morale, help with branding, as well as benefit its communities and stakeholders.  What many SMBs do not often realize, is how deep a company can go to promote the charitable campaign through its social networks – without breaking through the walls of decency.

Here are five recommendations to plan and promote a charitable campaign online:

  1. Branding a charitable campaign: Make sure the charitable campaign aligns with the company brand. Hagenbuch writes, “…identify and support issues that are more directly related to the business. A more closely aligned social issue can capture momentum from the company’s mission and reinforce its branding.”
  2. Create a social media plan: There are so many opportunities to tweet, post copy, and photos.on a company’s social media networks. Creating a plan to schedule postings (including copy, images, and video) over the course campaign can help keep the initiative alive for your stakeholders, providing a steady drumbeat of postings to illustrate the charitable operation. If socializing the campaign seems self-indulgent, think about this: a charitable campaign that is well promoted can pick up considerable steam – garnering more community/customer/employee and volunteer support.
  3. Press Releases: Traditional marketing tactics are still very effective, such as the tried and true press release.  A release can be posted on the company website and distributed to media organizations on and offline.  However, many companies make the mistake of just relying on press releases to promote the charitable campaign, with the added hope of press coverage.  News coverage of charity events is not a sure thing with understaffed newspapers and television news organizations bent on breaking news.
  4. Blogging: While press releases are one means to write and explain a charitable giving plan, blogging is also an effective means to create more content and SEO on the business website.  Blogging about the charity, the individuals it benefits, the employees who participate and volunteer — can go a long way to showcase a company’s commitment.  Copy is nice but images and text are even better.  Make sure to include plenty of photos within the copy.
  5. Video/Vlogging: In today’s video-centric world, video has become a desirable format to tell a story. In the past few years, the blog-o-sphere has been dominated by “Vloggers” who have millions of followers.  This does not mean your company has a to pay for expensive video production and editing – as short one to two-minute segments that are either moments taken from the campaign and/or edited on a number of affordable software programs, are more than acceptable.  Sometimes the more casual and honest the video clip is – the better.  Pieces that tend to be too polished may come off as disingenuous.