Next week restaurants around Richmond will be asking patrons who order tap water to donate $1 to The United Nations Children’s Fund, commonly known as UNICEF. VCU BrandCenter is promoting the event, called Richmond Tap Project .
In their push to be creative, the BrandCenter effort shows a lack of understanding about incentives and basic business principals. Frankly, it isn’t very catchy.
Rule No. 1 in hospitality and retail, as in medicine, is do no harm. Asking customers to donate their money to a cause of the store’s choosing can alienate customers. Patrons go out to eat to escape from their worries, not to be reminded about starving and apparently parched kids in Africa before they bite into a fillet and guzzle two pints of micro beer.
The campaign might be altruistic, but if I ran a restaurant, I wouldn’t sign up.
Many have, though.
This is not to say charity has no place in business. Quite the opposite. Businesses partner with charities all the time and can use the power of incentives. If restaurants were donating one dollar to match each one a patron donated, then a) patrons wouldn’t feel like they’re getting bossed around since the business is also donating and b) it would probably illicit more donations because one dollar from a customer leads to two dollars for the cause. Joe Donator knows his dollar goes twice as far.
How do the restaurants keep track of the separate dollar donations, anyway?
Perhaps I’m being too cynical, but I hate it when Kroger asks me to donate to their cause de jour.
BizSense is cooking up a story about the relationships between for-profit businesses and nonprofits and/or charities (not necessarily the same). Look for it next week.