How to leverage your marketing dollars by investing in historical nonprofits

History Smiths

True story.

Several years ago, I served as the executive director of the Ipswich, Massachusetts Historical Society. One of the local banks, The First National Bank of Ipswich, funded the historical society’s annual lecture series for $1,000. Now that might not sound like a lot of money to you as a business person – and it’s not – but to a small  nonprofit it can mean the difference between being able to do a project or not.

With that $1,000, the historical society paid modest stipends to the series speakers and purchased refreshments.

For that same $1,000, the bank received a year’s worth of targeted, quality publicity through the historical society’s newsletter, Web site, and lecture series poster. The bank was thanked at each lecture, and their representative was introduced.

The bank was able to call attention to its role through its own communications vehicles, post information about the lecture series in their branch offices, and secure their reputation as the local bank that cares about local history.

Brilliant! All for $1,000!

ROI – sure, but also have some faith

Businesses always talk about ROI – return on investment – and my experience with this bank gives me the perfect opportunity to push back.

For years, we public relations professionals have been criticized because we could not “prove,” in solid facts and figures, that public relations activities produced customers and sales.

As I tell people in my signature business talk about why and how businesses can support local history, banks understand money! If investing in local history didn’t work, they would not allocate the resources they do.

So I urge all of you involved in banking to take a look at your marketing budget, take a look at the historical organizations in your community, and make an investment.

People really do care about their local history, and they pay attention to the businesses that support it. You can easily become a local hero by backing a preservation project or serving as the exclusive sponsor for the kind of lecture series I described above.

As for ROI, I recently attended the annual meeting of The First National Bank of Ipswich. Tasked with shifting the focus of their business back to their target market, the North Shore of Boston, the bank president was able to show two pie charts demonstrating that dramatic, positive change had taken place.

“How did we do this?” he asked. In the next slide, he listed some of their recent community outreach initiatives, most of which were tied to the local history of the communities they serve. So there’s your ROI!

But pie charts aside, sometimes with PR and community outreach you need to have faith that it works – when it’s done well. “Faith” and “banking” don’t often go together hand-in-hand, but just try it!

Also, it matters

Another “warm and fuzzy?” Local history is important. What you will be supporting matters, and it’s lasting. You will boost your reputation in your community, and leave behind a legacy.