Casinos aren’t known for their charity work … but they should be.
Some helpful tips to make your fundraising efforts more successful.
One thing that casinos don’t get enough credit for is their charity and community work. In the hundreds of casinos we have been privileged to work with, there hasn’t been ONE that didn’t have significant support for several charitable endeavors. And interestingly, most tend not to “toot their horn” very much about this philanthropy.
Oftentimes, charity responsibilities fall on the Marketing Department. As if they didn’t have enough to do already! But that is probably the appropriate place for it, as it involves the casino’s brand and community image, and the charity involvement is usually very important to key constituencies like the CEO, Senior Management, Casino Owners, Tribal Leadership and sometimes casino Team Members.
In my casino career, I have seen and been involved in hundreds of casino supported charities. Sometimes it involves only writing a check for a client’s Charity Golf Tournament. But in three situations, myself or my company has been “all-in” with a charity and have been responsible for helping them raise, in total, over half a million dollars over the years. I am honored that the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, and now (and for the last two years), the Notah Begay III Foundation, have all allowed us the freedom and support to help raise much needed funds for their critically important work serving their communities.
From this experience, plus seeing numerous clients execute their charitable efforts, I’d like to share a few tips on perhaps how you can make your own or your company’s charity (READ: Fundraising) efforts more successful.
Build relationships, not “charity giving transactions” – in the dozen or so years I raised money for MDA, I encountered several young, dynamic local District Directors. They were vastly underpaid, but incredibly successful because they were skilled at BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS with their supporters. They were helpful, encouraging, appreciative and fun. And very soon, they were close friends. I guarantee, those relationships were the chief reason I stayed involved with MDA for so long, when my original goal was to just raise them a few bucks with my own unique fundraiser.
Apply effective marketing principles – whether you are trying to get a guest to part with a few bucks at a slot machine or a potential donor to fork over some cash for an important charity, the marketing principles are the same. You need to identify your target audience, you need to segment them on their past history (or legitimate future potential), you have to reach them in a way they like to be reached, and you have to make them a benefit-filled offer that speaks to “what’s in it for me?”
Be organized and have a plan – too often, I have seen various Casino Marketing executives treat their casino charity fundraisers like a toothache – they don’t turn their attention to it until the last minute, when time is critical. Better to embrace it, plan for it, and be promoting it, in some fashion, for the entire year.
Leverage your celebrities – most charities have celebrities or VIPs or local politicos that give high profile support and help potential donors loosen their wallets. For MDA (even though Jerry Lewis was the big cheese at the time), the real celebrities were the poster children – the kids with muscular dystrophy. For the NB3 Foundation, the celebrity is Notah Begay III, 4 Time PGA Tour winner, golf commentator for NBC, and the only full blooded, Native American PGA Tour member, who has masterfully created an organization that has raised and distributed nearly $20 million toward the health of Native American children.
Utilize your employees and your customers – you don’t necessarily have to beg your team members and guests to open their wallets for your casino’s favorite charity (although you can if you do it right), but there are numerous ways to get them aware , involved and supportive. If they get motivated by your charity efforts, they will want to help in some way, whether that involves wearing a special T-shirt on a special charity day at the casino, manning a “donation station,” or just getting their friends and relatives excited.
Never pass up an opportunity to raise a buck or enlist support for your charity – case in point, Casino Journal has a verified distribution of over 13,000 subscribers (with a “pass-around rate” that makes effective distribution much higher). I’m not sure how many of those read this column. But if you are reading this column right now, and your casino or your business serves the Native American gaming industry, I implore you, this minute, to go to www.nb3f.org and make a donation to help address the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes among Native American youth. Or, if you or your company are going to be at NIGA in Phoenix on March 14 – 16, 2016, spring for a table for the Native Strong Comedy Slam , at Gila River Casino – Lone Butte. Three of the funniest Native American comics in the country will be there, selflessly donating their time and laugh-making skills to help Notah help Native kids.
Sorry for the marketing nudge, but “marketing your cause” is all about those well-timed nudges.