How to donate gift certificates and amplify your marketing
You are likely often asked to “donate” a gift certificate for charities, fundraisers, auctions, stag-and-does, etc. Most of the time, the reason that you’re donating is personal or for a good cause, and so you likely approach it with the intention of “giving back” to something you believe in, or doing so as a favour.
Donating gift certificates are often “good deeds” but can also be a smart business decision.
Aside from the fact that you’ll get personal satisfaction in doing something like this, I’d like to propose that there is also an opportunity here for branding, recognition and awareness.
First, let me say that you should be selective in what you donate to, because if you said “yes” to everyone that asked, you’ve booked year-round shooting for “free” sessions from donated gift certificates.
Making them work for you in your photography business.
Assuming that you’ve already decided to donate a gift certificate – whatever the cause or reason – here are 8 ways that you can get the most out of it.
Donating gift certificates is a great way to give back, while also gaining recognition and awareness.
- Beautiful gift certificates. Invest in high-quality, custom, branded gift certificates. In general, your gift certificate is often the first touch point that a new client has with you, and you need to represent your brand appropriately as well as establish your value and credibility up-front.
- Include a physical print for display. There isn’t normally a high value put on an envelope with a gift certificate inside, as most people will associate this with lower-value items. If we’re giving a gift certificate that is worth hundreds of dollars (more on this in a minute) then we need to be making our gift certificate stand out and establish it as a high-value item. I personally insist on always having a large wall portrait on display whenever I give a gift certificate for anything. It stands out, shows the quality of my work and also gives the bidder/winner an idea for what they might be getting.
- Give product with the gift certificate. Don’t give a gift certificate for just the session, because it’ll seem like a “bait and switch” when the winner/new client calls you to redeem it. Include more than just the session, to your discretion, whether that be a few prints, a larger wall print, or a book.
- Include a beautiful value display. Don’t leave it up to the organizers of the event. Write a hand-written or typed-sheet saying what the gift certificate is for/worth. Establish credibilty and value by having something really nice printed and presented that displays what the gift certificate is for and what it’s worth.
- Brand recognition. Take advantage of the opportunity to have your work and material on display in front of a new audience. Have your logo printed on all visuals and on your display print as well. Use it as a branding opportunity.
- Have the organizers make it “special” or on it's own somewhere. Again, you don’t want your gift certificate to blend in with the $10 coffee shop gift card. Usually there is a table of higher-value gifts, door prizes, or something similar and your gift certificate and display would be well suited here. If not, ask the organizer to make your gift certificate special and not just sitting on the table with everything else.
- Explicitly show the value. Be sure to write down the value of your gift certificate somewhere in your display. This will help the organizers raise more money (if it’s a fundraiser) and it’ll also help establish your value.
- Track your gift certificates. Whatever you do or however you do it, be sure to track your gift certificates. Keep an ongoing spreadsheet and cross off the gift certificates when they are redeemed.
Whether you’re just getting started in business or have been running a business for a while, donating gift certificates can be a valuable way to give back and use your talents for a good cause, while at the same time gaining recognition and awareness.
For bonus points and maximum awareness, get involved in the events/charities/fundraisers that you donate gift certificates to. Go to the event, network, establish value and build relationships. If it's a live auction, offer to go on stage and give the gift certificate to the winner, maybe you can even get a photo-op and media appearance because of it. And who knows what else might come of it!