The ultimate goal of any business is to make money. However, giving some away to charity may actually be a boost to your bottom line.
Seeing the good that can come from supporting various causes is leading many businesses to build a business plan that focuses on giving back. One such business is Artsonia, a digital platform where teachers can create portfolios, upload student artwork and develop lesson plans. They can even use it as a digital tool to instruct and grade.
Founded in 2000 by Jim Meyers, Eric Meidel and Kishore Swaminathan, Artsonia initially focused on the importance of creating a digital space for children to display their artwork and an online community for teachers to collaborate.
As the business advanced, so did the strategy. As a way to turn a profit and financially give back to the community, Artsonia began offering custom merchandise with children's artwork, selling the merchandise to parents, and then donating 20 percent of the proceeds back to the school's art program.
This proved to be a beneficial strategy, and the business skyrocketed from there. The company has since been nationally recognized for its services, impacting its publicity and reputation.
The Artsonia "giving back" business model succeeded by providing value to students, teachers and the community. Artsonia is an example of how implementing a charitable effort into your business model can pay off.
For businesses considering this route, Artsonia says there are several key strategies they should keep in mind.
1. Adjusting your mindset to incorporate donations
Instead of viewing charity as an afterthought, it is important to focus on the value you can add to your community and incorporate this as an integral part of your strategy. Although Artsonia has technically donated $8 million to school art programs, the company views this as part of its core business process, not a donation. Adjusting your mindset can snowball your results with minimal work on your end.
"We don’t really think of it as donating," Meyers told Business News Daily. "Rather, we have empowered art teachers and schools to generate $8 million for their own art programs. It is really the teachers and the schools that are doing all the work to self-fund their programs."
2. Forming connections to enhance your product or service
It is important to form a strong connection between your business and the community you are donating to. A personal connection helps to tell a more impactful story and engage the community. You can use these connections to elicit customer feedback and incorporate it into your product or service. Artsonia does this by sharing consumer feedback with the community to demonstrate its product value.
"We allow teachers to tell us what they plan to do with funds earned," said Meyers. "We literally show the teacher's photo and how they plan to use funds in our emails to parents."
Artsonia also implements a teacher-driven design by using their feedback to improve its services.
3. Demonstrating your worth to make a profit
Meyers matter-of-factly stated that there would be no Artsonia without its "giving back" program. The donation aspect allows Artsonia to facilitate a mutually beneficial relationship with schools.
"Without the 20 percent donation of all revenue from merchandise as a fundraiser, schools would not be able to justify their employees giving us artwork files and student information in order to generate revenue from the student art," Meyers said.
Partnering with your community to demonstrate your worth can be vital to your core business.
4. Enriching your community without money
You can enrich your community by more than just financial means. For example, Artsonia benefits their community by facilitating teacher-to-teacher communication. Since art teachers are often the only one at their school, Artsonia sought to provide a digital community for them to share lesson plans and gain valuable insights from one another. Artsonia also enriches the community by making its products locally and putting its consumers' needs first.
"We make products locally and build things locally," said Meyers. "If the customer has complaints, we go above and beyond to replace the product or refund their money. We run a teacher-first, student-first and customer-first business. It has helped us grow for nearly 20 years now."
5. Highlighting charitable efforts to market your product
Simply donating is not enough to attract your audience. Meyers said his best tip for business owners is to highlight your charitable efforts as much as possible.
"A simple and crisp story of how and why you give back will help you communicate to the customers how you are doing something good," he said. "Keep it simple and try to tell the story using numbers. Whether it is a percentage or, after time, an amount you donate, shine a light on what you are doing."
Although Artsonia began its efforts by passively informing consumers about its 20 percent donation after they made a purchase, the company soon realized that highlighting this benefit beforehand was critical to its success. Highlighting your efforts can educate consumers on the direct impact they have with each purchase, and, in turn, can facilitate more revenue.