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Giving back is always good business

There’s a lot of focus these days on businesses giving back to their local community. Doing so can positively impact employees, existing customers and potential new buyers. And we certainly should admire the marine industry companies that are making a difference in many ways.

But I’m equally sure many dealers and others in our industry haven’t considered the value of stepping up in some way — or even how to get started. So before citing a few examples from some in our industry already giving back, here’s a basic roadmap to start if you haven’t already.

Margrette Mondillo is president of Boston’s Goodwin Group Public Relations and primarily works with NFL players. But you don’t have to be a big-name jock to give back. Her advice can be widely applied. Writing in “Network for Good,” here are some simple steps you can take to be active.

First, identify a cause. What area charitable work really touches or matters to you? This ensures that your cause is something you’ll be interested in for the long haul and odds are you’ll get behind it with the same determination you bring to your dealership. Don’t have one in mind? Perhaps asking your employees what’s meaningful to them will give you direction.

Next, plan an event or series of small events that tie in with the theme of your cause. If you’re supporting a nationally-known non-profit, for example, you could plan events that feed funding into the charity. It’s important to let people see your passion in action and they’ll be drawn to participate.

Get out in front for your cause, Mondillo says. Media coverage of your event can be your best ally. Make the press aware of what you’re doing and be available to reporters and local radio stations and become a trusted source.

Next, look for valued partnerships. Think hard about your various circles of influence. Who do you know that would want to connect with you in the effort to give back? Beside individuals, are there other local businesses that will identify with your efforts? It might be necessary to start small and build those relationships before you really see a commitment, but start somewhere. You might find connections where you least expect them, Mondillo says.

Finally, connect with your base. Use your email and social media to connect with current customers while generating followers for tomorrow. As you get out there to start promoting your community work, make sure you post updates on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll gain traction with scores of new admirers. The added visibility can lead to increased support on all levels, according to Mondillo.

So here are some examples from our boating industry of people making a difference:

* Freedom Boat Club is in its second year of a campaign to benefit Big Brothers, Big Sisters, a 113-year-old volunteer-supported mentoring network. The more than 300 affiliates across the country serve more than 150,000 children. In the first year, Freedom clubs hosted boating events and fundraising initiatives that raised more than $61,000 for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. “Our corporate and franchise clubs really felt good about working together and giving back in our respective communities,” Freedom president and CEO John Giglio said.

MarineMax employees in Clearwater, Fla., have partnered with Habitat for Humanity. They recently celebrated the groundbreaking of 12 new homes in the Clearwater area. Twelve families will soon have the opportunity to live and thrive in safe and secure homes, all scheduled for completion in time for Christmas. “MarineMax is built on a foundation of bringing friends, family and the community together. We are happy to give back to the community which has helped us grow into the business that we are today,” MarineMax chief operating officer Brett McGill said.

Pleasurecraft Engine Group employees volunteer at Camp Kemo providing and driving a Pleasurecraft-powered towboat so children could go boating, tubing and swimming on Lake Greenwood, S.C. Camp Kemo is Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital’s annual weeklong summer camp for cancer patients ages 5 to 18 and their siblings. “The Pleasurecraft team is passionate about serving our local community and Camp Kemo is one of the events that we have the privilege of being a part of every year,” Pleasurecraft president Mark McKinney said.

West Marine raised $33,380 during its annual National Safe Boating Week fundraiser at its stores and website. From May 18-29, manufacturers of the retailer’s personal flotation devices donated $2 to the West Marine’s non-profit BlueFuture Fund for every life jacket purchased. “This fundraiser clearly resonated with our customers,” senior vice president of marketing Deb Radcliff said. “Our BlueFuture Fund supports non-profit community-based organizations that are dedicated to providing young people with access to the water and the education and equipment needed to safely spend time there.”

Correct Craft might be the most widely recognized in our industry for its culture of making a difference. During the last 10 years, Correct Craft employees have served in communities around the world. For example, earlier this summer 30 employees from several Correct Craft companies travelled to Pignon, Haiti. For four days, these volunteers helped this poverty-stricken community by painting a large residence building, constructing soccer goals, building new seating benches for a gathering space and making needed electrical repairs. The Correct Craft team also purchased and distributed food to over one hundred families in the community.

These are just a few of many in our industry that have made giving back a part of their company culture. Look around your own local area for a cause to be passionate about and get involved. Amazingly, some simple but creative ideas could actually cost little to do while delivering meaningful results for the community and your dealership.

And please add others examples to this list in the comments below.



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