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Working With Charities and Hosting Community Events: Strategies and Benefits for Self-Storage Operators

Self-storage operators who work with local charities will often find a mutually beneficial partnership. Here are some simple strategies to working with charitable and other community groups.

July 13, 2011

5 Min Read
Working With Charities and Hosting Community Events: Strategies and Benefits for Self-Storage Operators

By Julie Purcell

Getting involved in the community is a good thing. Most of us volunteer every now and again, donate to the local food bank during the holiday season, or take a few items every so often to a local clothing charity.

From a self-storage operators perspective, is getting involved in community causes really worth the time and effort? Yes! It isnt always easy. It can be a big time commitment and take a lot of planning, but it also can be very rewarding for you and your community. Bottom line, it brings you rentals and helps a good cause.

Working with a charity doesnt necessarily mean donating moneyits so much more than that. It means putting together a mutually beneficial partnership and making use of everyones current customer base and business strengths. Here are some simple strategies to working with charitable and other community groups.

Choosing an Organization

When choosing a group with which to work, there are guidelines to follow. First, pick a charity close to your heart. If you feel really strongly about the fight against breast cancer, find an awareness group. If youre an animal lover, consider working with a pet rescue or adoption charity. If your facility is in an area where going green is gaining momentum, working with a local recycling company could be beneficial.

Consider choosing a group thats geographically close to your facility. Storage customers usually live or work within a five-mile radius of where they store. When the organization talks about how great you are and refers people to you, youll be just a short distance away. If you host events together, the vicinity will be much more convenient for everyone involved.

Choose an organization in which youll feel comfortable. Read its website and talk to a few people whove worked with the group. See if you feel at ease with the groups dynamics, goals and mission. Consider local vs. national. Keep in mind if you pick a bigger group, developing a partnership may be more time-consuming than if you work with a smaller one, but it will also have more name recognition.

Finally, look for a group thats active in its community. The more involved it is, the more opportunities it will have to spread the good word about your facility. Finding a group that needs storage itself or works with people who do is an extra perk.

Make the Connection

Once youve identified one or two charities, make the connection. The majority of organizations are always on the lookout for new volunteers and community partners. Set up a meeting with someone at the charity to discuss how you can help. Its best to have a plan of action in place before the meeting. Explain what you can offer. Here are a few ideas:

  • Offer a free unit for a year for the group to store donated items, office supplies, etc.

  • Allow the charity to host meetings in your conference room.

  • Give a special discount to group employees and clients.

  • Host a community fundraiser.

  • Post the groups information at your facility and on your website.

All of these increase exposure for your facility and get potential customers to visit your site, which increases the likelihood they will store with you.

Hosting an Event

Having an onsite event is probably one of the biggest time and financial commitments youll undertake when it comes to being involved with a charity. However, it can also bring you the most potential customers. Before you host this type of event, here are a few things to consider.

Timing. Schedule the event when you have time to really give it thought. Your busiest rental month of the year may not be the best time; however, scheduling the event it for the month after will allow you to promote during your busiest time for great exposure. Also, consider good times for people to attend an event. For example, an event a few days before Christmas or during a holiday weekend may not be well-attended.

Ideally, you should start planning at least two months ahead so you have enough time to organize the details and maximize your marketing efforts. Build a master timeline to keep everything in order.

Cost. To help cover costs, ask other local business to pitch in by donating products or services. Form a planning committee and ask everyone to accomplish different tasks so everything doesnt fall on you.

Marketing. Properly market the event by posting fliers around your facility, and send a press release to local newspapers. Send invites to your current customers, drop off fliers at the local real estate office or apartment complex, and ask other businesses in your area if you can leave fliers for their customers. The bigger and more official you make the event sound, the more attention and attendance youll receive.

Creativity. Most important, have fun and make it interesting. You dont have to invest a huge budget to host a community event, just time and creativity. It can be something small such as a yard sale where the items sold benefit the charity. Consider hosting a car wash, blood drive, clothing or canned-food drive, or even a family-fun day.

Getting involved in your community garners your facility free publicity, drives potential customers to your site, supports a worthy cause, and solidifies your relationships with the local business community. Studies have shown that customers appreciate it when businesses are involved in their communities and will make their purchasing decisions accordingly. It may be the difference between someone picking you over your competitor, and having that advantage can be priceless.

Julie Purcell is the marketing director for Storage Asset Management Inc., a third-party management and consulting company that manages self-storage facilities across the mid-Atlantic and New England. For more info call 717.779.0044; visit www.storageassetmanagement.com.

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