Richard Steckel on Putting Authenticity First


Richard Steckel, author of Making Money While Making a Difference, believes that strategic philanthropy strengthens a company’s brand image by connecting with consumers’ personal value systems. Steckel calls this “the halo effect.” “Consumers have a wealth of new products and services to choose from, and it’s tougher than ever keeping them loyal,” says Steckel. “Consumers are starved for evidence that businesses stand for something meaningful, and look for behavior that reflects those values.” As an example, Steckel notes Big Bill’s New York Pizza, a business he has patronized for years, in part because of its strong ties to the local community of Centennial, Colorado. “Bill is a local icon, foremost for his New York style pizza, but equally as a homegrown hero with commitment to the local community, including sponsoring a local baseball team.” “When you go to Big Bill’s any time during the year, there’s a group of kids having a celebration,” says Steckel. “They are connected to Big Bill because he’s involved with their team. Their parents are loyal to Big Bill’s because they know that he genuinely cares about kids, and the values that sports teach young people.” To be effective, cause marketing must come from the heart in a way that is genuine and creates an emotional bond with others. You have to be sincere. You have to be honest. You have to actually do good, not just do things that make it look like you’re doing good. “Though it’s Bill’s excellent pizza that gets them in the door, it’s his ongoing community involvement that keeps them coming back as lifelong customer evangelists,” says Steckel. “Little kids look up to Bill. Parents look up to him and think, ‘You’re somebody I want my child to emulate.’ What businessperson doesn’t want to be like that?” Richard Steckel has an international reputation as a consultant and speaker on nonprofit social enterprise and for-profit strategic corporate citizenship. Since 1984, he has developed earned income strategies, products and services for more than 300 for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Before founding the consulting firm AddVenture Network, he was Executive Director of the Denver Children’s Museum, where he introduced innovative ideas that made the Museum national model of the earned income approach to fundraising.  

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