Social entrepreneurism involves using your business as a tool to recruit other people to support a cause or social objective you feel passionate about.
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But to really make an impact, you'll need to learn how to recruit the most elusive group of prospective do-gooders . . . Your customers.
Although recruiting your employees to your cause can be challenging, the task is made easier by the fact that you already exert a certain amount of influence over them as their employer. Customers, on the other hand, are a completely different story. Think about it: Your initial contact with your customers is based on their desire to purchase your products and services. Helping change the world is probably the farthest thing from their minds.
Yet as a social entrepreneur, it's your responsibility to get them as fired up as you are about your social agenda. To do that, you'll have to connect the dots, i.e. create linkages between your business offerings and your cause.
One of the most important things you can to encourage customer buy-in is to educate them about the cause you support. There are literally hundreds of ways your company can use your existing resources to inform customers and clients about specific social problems. For example, if you have chosen autism as your noble cause, you could very easily integrate an autism awareness campaign into your product packaging, store displays, promotional mailings, and other vehicles that speak to your customer base.
But to be effective, your communication efforts can't stop with just informing your customers about your cause. You also need to clearly and consistently demonstrate how your products and your company are advancing your cause. Once customers buy into the fact that supporting your business has the added benefit of advancing a socially redeeming cause, it's more likely they will choose your products in a relatively flat competitive environment.
Any nonprofit can tell you that the surest strategy to stimulate contributions is to offer prospective donors the opportunity for hands-on involvement. It works the same way in a social entrepreneurial business. By coordinating opportunities for your customers to participate in advancing your cause (e.g. an informational "carnival" in the store parking lot, a customer night at a local nonprofit, etc.), you create critical connections between the people who buy your products and the cause you support. And here's something else to consider: As your customers become more passionate about your cause, they simultaneously become more loyal to your company because your business serves as the dot that connects them to their adopted social objective.
Collaboration with nonprofit organizations offers another opportunity to sell your customers on your company and your cause. Depending on your company's size and level of involvement, nonprofits may agree to participate in joint marketing campaigns or other collaborative initiatives. If the two organizations share similar social objectives, collaborative projects can be a win-win arrangement in which the nonprofit gains exposure in the community and the social entrepreneurship gains the implicit endorsement of a respected community group.