By Donna Edwards
Self-storage facilities have a unique opportunity to be involved in their communities by hosting charity or other local events. This strategy not only builds name recognition and brand awareness, it creates goodwill in the area at little or no cost to the business. Getting involved in grassroots efforts can also provide top-of-mind awareness when a resident or business owner needs storage at a later date. Prospects will remember the self-storage facility that supported a cause or charity they advocate.
Keep the following information in mind for planning a donation drive, fundraiser or other event. First, here are 10 popular ways for self-storage operators to support local charity organizations:
- Sponsor a coat drive during the winter.
- Collect portable heaters and fans for the elderly.
- Host a toy drive during the holidays.
- Participate in a non-perishable food drive for local food banks.
- Host a child-safety day. Ask fire and police personnel to come to the facility and offer education on bike safety, proper installation of child-safety seats, fire safety, etc.
- Participate in a walk-a-thon to raise money for March of Dimes, Alzheimer’s research, breast cancer, etc.
- Partner with an animal shelter and host a pet adoption, or solicit donations of pet food, cat litter, blankets, towels and toys for a local shelter.
- Launch a school-supply drive for local kids and teachers. Donate to a school close to your facility or partner with a charity that helps low-income students.
- Donate free use of a storage unit to victims of floods, fires and other natural disasters, or accept donations to assist them.
- 10. Be a drop-off location for water, diapers and other supplies for the Red Cross. If you have a truck, offer to deliver items as well.
Choose a Cause
The first step to building any kind of event is to research local charities with which your organization would like to align. Ask yourself who you want to help. Is there a cause your ownership or staff openly supports such as animals, food banks, cancer awareness, the elderly, children or the homeless? Choosing a cause employees already follow will help boost energy, morale and involvement.
Once you decide on a cause, contact a related organization at least 90 days prior to your proposed event date. This allows time to reschedule in case there are any conflicts. Identify your best contact and ask if there are marketing materials, logos, fliers or other information the group can provide that will assist in your marketing efforts. Will the organization help promote your event to its supporters?
Promote the Event
Successful events require careful planning. The next step is to determine your budget. There are many types of events that require little or no investment on the part of your facility. In many cases, you can generate free publicity.
Send press releases to all local media including cable channels, magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations, and the chamber of commerce. Your releases should be issued 30 to 45 days prior to the event, depending on the media outlet. Monthly publications, for example, have earlier deadlines than newspapers or broadcast stations. It’ll take some time to identify the correct contact for each outlet, but once you’ve found them all, your list will come in handy for future events.
When sending a press release, make sure it promotes the event you’re hosting and not your business in general. No one will publish it if it looks like an ad for your company—they’d prefer you to buy ad space or time! Instead, make the release about the special day and cause. Explain how you’re offering support to a local organization.
See if you can post your event on the calendar for the local chamber of commerce. Ask if the chamber will help publicize the affair by sending e-mails to its members, posting a flier in the office or giving you an opportunity to address membership at a networking social. It may also be willing to provide a member e-mail list to which you can send a message.
You’ll also want to create a flier. E-mail digital copies to current and past customers, your vendors, area businesses, local churches and schools, and even your competitors one to two weeks before the event to give everyone plenty of notice and a chance to be involved. Post physical copies at your building’s entrance, near the keypad and in the office. Hand out fliers to everyone who comes into the office including prospects, new move-ins and existing tenants. If you have a favorite local restaurant, grocery store, gas station or entertainment spot, ask if you can post a flier at these locations.
Ask everyone to help support the event, make a donation and spread the word. Free publicity and positive word-of-mouth increase the chance for success. Just don’t forget to remove your fliers from all physical locations after the event. A business that agrees to post your flier will appreciate that you remembered to take it down.
Another great way to promote your events is to create a reusable generic banner. For example, if you host a toy drive every year, post a banner that solicits donations. Avoid printing the year, or any words that make it time-specific.
Finally, tap into social media channels. Post information on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and any other platform you use as part of your marketing. Take photos and post weekly updates for an extended event or more often for a shorter one. During the week leading up to the event, create a sense of urgency by saying “Last week to donate” or “Time is running out.” Share your photos with followers and encourage sharing to increase exposure. When people donate, ask how they heard about your event to track your efforts.
Once the event is over, send a second press release with a photo to local media announcing how many items were collected or how much money was raised. Thank all of the businesses that supported your cause and the community for supporting its neighbors. Once again, make it about the community and not your business.
Post the results on your social media account and send an e-mail to your customers thanking them for their participation. A prospect who learns about your community efforts may choose your facility because you supported a charity that he likes.
Finally, if the event was successful, put it on your calendar for next year. It’s best to schedule it for around the same time each year so your customers and the community know when to expect it. Hosting community or charity events is a great way to create a positive image for your facility and could help potential customers remember your name when they need storage.
Donna Edwards is a manager at Plantation Self Storage in Bluffton, S.C., which is operated by Southeast Management Co. She joined the company in 2013 and has more than 10 years of experience in property management. Her marketing experience includes setting budgets, designing yearly marketing plans, and creating and writing all types of advertising. For more information, call 843.815.8000; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.southeastmanagementcompany.com.