By: Shad Bookout
From collecting donations to raising awareness, nearly every apartment community will take part in some sort of corporate social responsibility effort this year. Thousands of dollars will be raised and thousands of families will be impacted by the philanthropic efforts of the multifamily industry and their residents. But even seasoned on-site teams can struggle with the challenges of hosting a quality charity event. Rise above these difficulties, make a difference and take your upcoming charitable endeavor to the next level. Here is what you need to know to successfully host charity events at your community.
Choosing Your Charity
What are you passionate about? Kids? Pets? Helping the homeless? There are so many great charities to choose from that it can be a struggle picking just one. By starting with something that you find meaningful, you will bring more energy and enthusiasm to your efforts. Ask your team and poll your residents to discover a cause that will have the most meaning to them.
Lori Trainer, Transitions and Acquisitions at Cushman & Wakefield, suggests selecting a charity that is widely accepted. “For example, who doesn’t love rescuing animals? Even if you are allergic, no one is immune to the adorable face of a fluffy puppy. Similarly, feeding the homeless is an endeavor that no one can really argue about. But there are some that can get a little more uncomfortable — or controversial — that I would recommend staying away from. Certainly steer clear of anything political or religious. Anything that leans towards these can be touchy. You don’t want to alienate half of your audience.”
Finding what resonates with you, your team, and your residents are the first step in ensuring your event will get everyone engaged and eager to participate. A great resource you can utilize is CharityNavigator.org. Here you can see the true impact each charity has, the financial stability of the organization, the percentage of your donation that goes to the program versus overhead, and other useful information.
Planning Your Event
Whether your event is as simple as establishing a dropbox for donations or something more involved that takes hours to set up and coordinate, the same elements will lead to getting more participation and support. Set a target goal (e.g amount of donations, number of volunteer hours, or other measurable milestones) and plot out how to successfully reach that objective. Break it down into small bits in order to spread the workload and make this easier on everyone. Identify the tools you need and how will you inspire everyone to take part.
One important factor is making your event fun. “I know that seems odd,” Lori Trainer said, “because after all, it is about the charity. What can you do to make it fun and enticing to your residents? Food, drinks, prizes, games, music… it all leads to a win/win. Your participants feel rewarded for their efforts and you are able to gain more support for the charity. Consider offering a free late fee or a waived yoga class or dog walking fee.”
It all comes down to knowing how to inspire others to help you reach your goals and getting the message out to everyone on how they can participate and what they get in return.
Get The Word Out
One of the most common challenges is successfully getting the messages out to your audience. In order for your event to hit the goals you have set, it is vital that you strategically communicate about how people can participate, what they get in return, and why it is important. Post signs throughout your community in advance of your event to announce all the details. Send messages to your residents through social media, text, and email.
Do not rely on a single source as the default method for drawing attention to your event. The more methods you use and the more targeted your communication, the more involvement you will receive. Do not limit your event to just current residents and team members. Reach out to every prospect, all of the businesses that surround your community (especially those that have active residents), and your supplier partners. Include information about your chosen charity and your event in your email postscript. Everyone you encounter should know about your event and how they can participate.
How To Ask
The most difficult part of a charity drive is undoubtedly the asking. And even though it is difficult, it is the most important part of your planning efforts. “The ask is uncomfortable, but so is the first time a new leasing person asked for the lease,” Lori Trainer points out. “Most things are hard the first time you do it, and then it becomes muscle memory and it gets easier. The great thing about the ask with charity is that you are asking to help someone. So, it is not self-serving. You can put your heart and soul into that ask. You can honestly say, ‘by making this donation you will change the life of ___, and won’t that make you feel good?”
Planning your “asks” is fundamental to getting the most out of your charity event.
Make An Impact
Now the time has come to make your event a success. Adam Lowry, founder and executive director of Move For Hunger, has seen all sorts of resident events to raise awareness and donations. “From a property management standpoint, charity events should be viewed as an amenity you offer,” he said.
His organization seeks to solve many of the common questions and frustrations by providing all of the supporting materials and partnering with communities to ensure no extra work is created. Instead, Move for Hunger executives want you to spend your time and energy focused on connecting to the people involved. And the results of these partnerships show. Move for Hunger’s “Spread The Love” campaign collected peanut butter and jelly from more than 300 communities by ensuring that donations went strictly to local food banks. Its summer Shark Week promo seeks to expand on these results by collecting cans of tuna. “Food drives are more than putting a can of food in a box; they need to be fun. The joy of the theme is what helps gamify the ideas,” Lowry says.
The more connected you are to the cause, the easier it is to plan and the easier the ask is to make. The more fun that is being had by all, the more they will be willing to donate. So remember to get involved and go find a cause in which you and your community can make an impact.
Shad Bookout has over 20 years of experience as a multifamily supplier and educator. He currently serves as the Director of Content for Rent & Retain Magazine which provides on-site teams with tips and tricks to gain more traffic, earn more leases, and retain more residents. He also serves as Chief Social Officer for OpinionsVary Inc. where he can found behind the scenes helping multifamily suppliers succeed in their digital media and marketing efforts.