Guest Blogger Julie Markowitz, Director of Staunton Downtown Development Association (SDDA), started with Main Street in 2006 armed with ten years of experience in mall marketing and promotions.
Our StauntoNites event grant program, which was designed to incentivize businesses to stay open until 8 PM Saturday nights and host an in-store event to stimulate a vibrant downtown, just wrapped up and we’re evaluating the outcome. The SDDA encouraged businesses to forge non-profit partnerships to strengthen their retail or restaurant events. I was surprised to find that many businesses didn’t know how to leverage those partnerships to their advantage.
The Main Street district’s independent businesses struggle with donation requests for area nonprofits, especially from people that never shop their stores. Instead of donating product, several hold promotional events where the charity supporters can shop or dine, then the business donates a percentage of the revenue to the nonprofit. This idea is appealing; unlike a donation, it gets people into the business to spend and puts the responsibility of fundraising success on the nonprofit.
Most businesses choose a charitable partner that appeals to their passion and that’s a great starting place. Our most successful StauntoNites event supported three little girls with cancer, which made it very easy for the organizer to attract seventeen sponsors and raise close to $4000. The girls’ families shared the event on social media and also posted pictures and “thank you’s”, which benefited the business reputation and that of the event. The parents also brought the children to the event to receive their gifts.
Obviously, the best partnerships are mutually beneficial. For a successful partnership, both the business and the nonprofit should work in concert in the following ways:
- Start strong by planning the event concept, goals and partnership details together
- Be consistent, use the same visual image in promotion
- Pair the business and charity logos in ads, posters and banners
- Promote the partnership and event details to the media and supporters in the press, newsletter or e-news
- Share pictures and event invitations on each partner’s social media
- Add event images and links on partner websites
- Recruit volunteers to assist with event implementation, poster distribution, ticket sales, etc.
- Post event pictures and outcome and thank each other publicly