It all started with a phone call. Well, that’s not entirely true—it started with a few hundred phone calls. Schools and nonprofit groups contribute tremendously to the well-being of our communities, but in order to exist in many cases, and certainly to improve the quality of what they offer, money is sorely needed by these organizations. Thus, the phone calls. Every day, as far back as the 1980s, I received as many as 10 calls in a day from community groups requesting cash donations or donations of merchandise. The calls came from large organizations, tiny dance troupes, and everything in between. I wanted to help them all, but I couldn’t. And I felt guilty about it. I understood their needs, but they weren’t aware of COLE HARDWARE’s reality. In fact, due to the ultra-slim bottom lines of most small businesses, donation requests are still a dilemma for many. (By the way, the requests still come in droves, but mostly by e-mail now. )Guilt has a way of fostering creativity. How could I turn a “yes” to every request into a positive for COLE HARDWARE? The light bulb went off: cause marketing was born here. When the calls came, I started saying yes—but with a catch. The recipient organization had to join our Community Partners program. In addition to providing donations, I created a pretty good list of benefits that made joining compelling, including publishing the names of all of our partners in our Hardware Hotline newsletter, thus making it truly a win-win partnership.
The organizations received donations, discounts, freebies, and more. We asked them to share the news of our partnership within their community. And we sweetened the deal by donating 10% of all purchases made by that community back to the school or nonprofit group. Everybody was happy, and my guilt turned into pride by the success of our Community Partners program. It made giving both heartwarming and fun.
Fast-forward to today. Our partnerships are still going strong. We have hundreds of schools and community groups partnering with us—814, in fact!
We still donate to fund-raisers, give discounts for special programs, and donate a percentage of sales back to our partners. We now also give away cases of our own Cutting Edge wines and Clearly COLE HARDWARE bottled water to sell or serve at fund-raising events. We spotlight individual groups in the Hardware Hotline, raise hundreds of dollars for selected groups with our Coins for the Community collections each month, and much, much more. And we’re still having fun doing it!
Our Community Partners program is core to our culture. It fills us with pride, and it makes giving as rewarding for us as receiving is for our recipients! If your school, church, or favorite nonprofit group is not yet partnering with us, please go to www.cole hardware.com/partners and join now.