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What Charitable Events Should Your Utility Promote?

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Managing Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 32 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too. The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

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  • Jul 14, 2021 10:01 pm GMT
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Supporting a charitable or community event or program used to be a no-brainer for companies.

It’s always good to be involved in the community and be a strong corporate citizen, right?

Years ago, yes. Today, probably, but beware of potential pitfalls.

In our supercharged world, where everyone strives to be politically correct, even seemingly innocuous events can pose trouble.

For the love of all things holy, avoid having anything to do with politics. In today’s climate, by choosing sides – or even appearing to do so – you might aggravate half of your customer base.

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Ditto for religion, which always is a contemptuous issue. Considering that wars have and continue to be fought over religion, you don’t want your utility embroiled in anything related to it.

The same largely holds true for race-related issues. Things aren’t as always clear-cut as they seem.

And any controversial issue in the news now or years past should be avoided. A few examples: abortion, immigration, gun control and vaccinations (yes, I know that sounds bad, but the issue is politicized to the nth degree right now).

All of this begs the question: What can we support? A few things are generally safe, although always be on the lookout for potential problems. Here are a few ideas, plus some caveats.

Patriotic events, such as Fourth of July festivities, are an easy way to create goodwill. Consider sponsoring the local parade or fireworks display, assuming a prior year’s event didn’t end in tragedy, such as a house burning down.

Feeding the hungry is always popular, and food banks perpetually have needs, whether it’s for dollars or for volunteers to sort and deliver food.

Food festivals are typically safe, yet even they can be politicized. For example, a food festival in Philadelphia was canceled recently after the banning of an Israeli food truck set off multiple complaints.

Animal events often are a big winner and can generate some great visuals – who doesn’t love cute animals? That said, events involving zoos may draw protests, so supporting animal shelters, especially “no-kill” shelters, is a safer bet.

Events involving kids or seniors (or both) tend to be safe, although the former can present issues at times. For example, some people are angry at the Boy Scouts for its since-changed historical policies about gay scouts and a history of sexual abuse by a few scout leaders.

One other possibility: Programs that assist your less-fortunate customers will likely be safe. It’s hard for people to complain about raising money to help financially challenged customers pay their utility bills.

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Thank Andy for the Post!
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Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Jul 19, 2021

Andy - your timing for this post is perfect.  It seems like so many companies have recently fallen into the pitfall of taking a political side, which always made me wonder have they thought about the other % of their customers.  Also, it seems to be getting harder and harder to determine what would be considered neutral ground.  You provided some great examples above.  Curious about what you think about events that support recycling?  That seems somewhat neutral.  

BTW I love this statement in your post

For the love of all things holy, avoid having anything to do with politics. In today’s climate, by choosing sides – or even appearing to do so – you might aggravate half of your customer base.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Andy Gotlieb on Jul 22, 2021

Thanks Audra. Supporting recycling-related events seems to be fairly safe ground. People may dispute the best way to recycle -- and whether current recycling programs are even effective -- but few people are flat-out opposed to it.

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