Spring 2013
Doing Good By Stephanie Vozza

Easy Ways to Give Back

Meredith Hite, vice president of corporate communications for the Dallas Market Center, encourages retailers to give back to their communities and adds that the efforts don't need to be complex. She offers these four simple ideas for contributing.

Hold a canned goods or toy drive and offer shoppers a special discount for participating.

Encourage your staff to volunteer their time in the community. It doesn't have to be about raising money, says Hite; goodwill is just as important.

Implement a program like Keep the Change, where storeowners ask shoppers if they would like to donate their change to a charitable cause. Hite says storeowners can get shoppers involved in selecting the receiving charity via social media.

Offer your store as a space for hosting fundraising events. Hite says it's easy to forget that charitable organizations need locations.

Leon & Lulu

Mary-Liz-Curtin-copyMary Liz Curtin, owner of Leon & Lulu, a furniture, gift and accessories store in Clawson, MI, believes in a community-focused marketing plan, which includes more than 60 annual charity events.

“We don’t do any advertising; most of our marketing money goes through our charity events,” says Curtin, who has been in business for seven years. “Any business can support the local community. Whether it is a gift of product, providing space for a fundraiser, donating a percentage of sales or just writing a check – all of us can make a difference. We have a commitment to our community and to help others; our strategy has been the perfect blend for us. We’ve found new customers through our charity outreach while helping many groups both large and small through our events program.”

One of many events includes the store hosting local artists and crafts people for a two-day market to introduce the community to a range of exceptional handcrafted items made in Michigan. The event benefits Cass Community Social Services, a Detroit agency committed to fighting poverty and creating opportunities by providing food, medical, mental health, vocational, youth and homeless services.

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“Cass has a program where the homeless men pick up discarded tires,” says Curtin. “It helps clean up Detroit and the tires are made into mud mats. We sell them all year long and give Cass Community Social Services all of the money. It hits so many levels: it helps the environment, the homeless, the artists, and our customers.”

Curtin says people like to shop with people; selling is a relationship business. “Giving back shows us as a caring company,” she says. “Customers relate to it and they can join us in supporting a great number of causes. I’ve been given a lot, and I’m in an enviable position here. We set aside funds to support as many charities as possible. Since it’s in the budget, it gets done.”

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After being selected as the Next Big Give winner, Leon & Lulu received a mention in the Detroit News. Curtin says her customers feel a sense of ownership in the store’s win, too. “Our store is built on relationships,” she says. “Our customers were thrilled to see us win; our win is their win. Our customers take a proprietary air; they’re very loyal.”

Curtin says she suggests that other businesses think about how they can give back. “It doesn’t have to be in a big way,” she says. “An event that raises $100, gives an organization $100 more than they had before. Plus it’s fun. People who support charities are nice people.”

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Stephanie Vozza

Stephanie Vozza is a freelance writer based in the Detroit area. She specializes in business and real estate. Learn more at stephanievozza.com.




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