Article Date: 11/1/2010

Give Back to the Community
marketing fundamentals

Give Back to the Community

In part one of our discussion on charity, we focus on children.

Leah Colby, O.D.

A business owner once expressed to me his view of a local charity event: "Bah, we've given to stuff like that, and we've never seen a spike in business." I explained it's not about the immediate buck — it's about creating long-term name recognition and community awareness. I've seen patients as a result of a contribution or our participation in an event as long as three years after the contribution or event.

Marketing experts espouse different ideas about charities, and not every idea works for every practice. The idea depends on location and patient base. For example, with its small-town feel, my practice, which is located in a northwest suburb of Minneapolis, may capitalize on ideas that won't necessarily work in downtown Manhattan, where 20 practices compete in a one-block radius. However, you can create the sense of community giving no matter where you practice. Here are some ideas.

Scholarships

Where there are schools, there are students — and parents — who need financial aid. Eight years ago, we started funding a scholarship to high school seniors who plan to pursue a career in healthcare. Each year, I attend the school's Awards Night to present the scholarship and get my picture taken with the lucky recipient. The appreciation from the recipient is always heartfelt. With the growth of our business, the scholarship has grown from $500 for one student to two $1,000 scholarships. Granted, this may only pay for a couple years of pizza, but what college student survives on cafeteria food alone?

Team/group sponsorships

With the financial cutbacks faced by most extracurricular programs, the need to help offset expenses is overwhelming. Something as simple as a $25 business card-sized ad in the football program, sponsoring the dance team at their regionals for $100 or paying $250 for the jerseys of the little league baseball team goes a long way for name recognition. The options for ways to contribute are endless.

School vision screenings

What better place to help give back than at the school vision screening program? Who does the school turn to when a questionable result occurs at a screening? You, the expert. Although most schools don't allow you to advertise at the screenings, the screenings give schools peace of mind knowing they can contact you if needed.

School fundraisers

Bingo night, school festivals, parent/teacher (PTO) organizations, 5K runs, etc. — we receive letters asking for anything we're willing to contribute to these events. You'd be surprised at how far a $100 donation can stretch, from purchasing a big ticket raffle item to offsetting the expenses of hosting the event.

How do you get started?

► Call your local schools, and ask how you can help. Start your query with the school's nurse or secretary.
► Most schools have websites that list upcoming events and include information on how to get involved.
► Obtain the name of the PTO director, what events the PTO hosts and how you can help.

Remember, marketing does not have to cost you thousands of dollars — using it wisely will help grow your practice for the long haul. OM

In January, part two covers charitable efforts for adults.


DR. COLBY OPERATES EYEWEST VISION CLINIC AND OPTICAL IN ROGERS, MINN. SHE WAS NAMED THE "YOUNG OPTOMETRIST OF THE YEAR" BY THE MINNESOTA OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION. TO COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE, E-MAIL OPTOMETRICMANAGEMENT@GMAIL.COM.

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2010