"Why Don't You Just Give the Organizations Money? Why do events?"
Recently I was asked, "Why are you doing these events? Why not just donate to the charity the event is for?" Why? Because the events make connections, build bridges, and support the Detroit small business community.
My company's Articles of Organization state that we will use a portion of our profits to support our fundraising and awareness events for organizations that focus on poverty, homelessness, and neighborhood revitalization in the city of Detroit. We invite the organization to speak at our events and to have individuals impacted by the organization to speak as well. We invite people to 'like' the organization's social media pages. We highlight the work that the organization does on our own social media pages.
Some of the guests at our events were previously unfamiliar with the organization benefiting from the event. They don't necessarily live in the city, and it's often the case that what they do know about the city comes from television, newspapers, and social media as opposed to first-hand experience or from relationships with people who do live in the city.
Hearing people impacted by the organization speak puts a human face on situations that some guests may have only seen on the nightly news. Maybe they don't know much about the struggles faced by single parents. To be food insecure. To live in fear. To "couch-surf" from one address to another. Maybe they're unfamiliar with the fact that tires are illegally dumped in Detroit vacant lots on a daily basis. One event is no magic bullet, of course - but it's something.
Maybe a guest is so moved by the stories heard, that guest decides to get involved. Maybe a guest hears about a particular aspect of the charity's work and thinks, "Hey, I could probably help with that!" Maybe when tax time comes and they're deciding what non-profit organizations they'll contribute to, they'll remember the smaller and start-up non-profits our events usually focus on, and not just the larger, well-known, heavily corporate-funded charities.
So, do we just focus on problems at our events? Is that what our guests will walk away with - a sense that Detroit is full of problems? Not at all! Detroiters are makers and doers and innovators and catalysts to change. As often as possible, I support other Detroit social enterprises and small businesses when making decisions about our events. Our catering is usually done by either Cass Community Social Services, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, or a Detroit-based food enterprise. With few exceptions, our raffle prizes and silent auction items are sourced from Detroit-based businesses. And these are usually minority and/or woman-owned businesses. The event gives me an opportunity to talk about these businesses in detail. It gives me an opportunity to talk about the small business support services available in the city. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say about a raffle or silent auction item "Wow! That's so cool! I never knew about that company!" and "Wow! That dinner was AWESOME! So, who did the catering?" The next time a guest needs a caterer, maybe they'll remember one of our caterers as opposed to making another call to Panera Bread. "The table centerpieces are so beautiful! Where did you get them?" And there's a chance to talk about the urban flower farm that provided our blooms, and that expands into a conversation about Detroit's urban agriculture scene.
And our guests make connections with each other. Our events are often attended by people with their own small business and/or involved in another organization doing work in the city that relates to our stated social mission. Business cards are exchanged. Conversations like these are overheard:
"You'd like for the youth assisted by your organization to have training in personal finance? I know someone that can help with that"
"My daughter needs community service hours for graduation - can she help the organization in some way?"
This is the new way of doing small business. It isn't just about ME and MY business and driving up MY profits. It's about collaboration, supporting each other, promoting each other, and making connections in the community."Cause-related marketing is not new" I often hear people say. No, it isn't. But, I'm not supporting charities so that you'll buy more of my cleaning products. I'm selling the cleaning products so that I can support the charities.