By Brooke Schaeffer-Kaplan, OD
Sept. 12, 2018
Local charity events enable your practice to give back to your community, and provide you with a wide net of potential new patients. They also give you a chance to remind existing patients, who see you there, that it’s time for their next exam.
Patients, especially Millennials, also like to patronize businesses that give back to the community, so they will appreciate a practice that supports local charities.
Here is how our 16-location practice in Alabama successfully participates in good works in our community.
Choose a Wide Range of Events & Activities
The number of events varies from year to year and office to office. This past year we partnered with Costa to participate in a river clean up in one of our local parks. Our pediatric doctor and technician participated in “Back to School in the Hills,” in a local suburb, to educate on the importance of back-to-school eye exams.
In another suburban community, we sponsored, along with other local businesses, a City Fest featuring samplings from area restaurants.
“Through the Eyes of Children,” is a charity we are currently participating in. We donate binoculars to a local children’s hospital to be used in a scavenger hunt, which we helped design, for children who are hospital-bound for long periods of time.
Establish a Budget for Community Involvement
There is a budget set aside for sponsorships in the local communities where we serve. Decisions are usually made at the end of the year for the coming year’s involvement, but if the budget allows changes, additions can occur.
Tips for keeping cost down is analyzing what your budget can accommodate, and planning ahead. Monitor referrals, and see if a particular event was successful bringing in new patients. If so, sponsor again, if possible.
For example, we still have patients mention the Crawfish Boil (a large street party with 25,000 of our closest friends) as to how they know about us. The last Boil was over five years ago. So, if the opportunity arises to sponsor another similar event, we’ll take it.
In addition to the cost of sponsorship, which can range from a $300, or less, to more than $1,000, you have to factor in the cost of creating branded giveaways that seal your practice name into the minds of the public. Placement of our practice name on marketing materials, such as t-shirts and score cards, is always a part of our sponsorships. This can easily cost over $1,000 for a large-scale event, in which you’ll want hundreds of items to giveaway, or can be $500, or less.
The return on investment is the exposure of your practice to new patients. Immediately following an event, we may get a dozen new patients, and existing patients, who come in for a yearly exam because they were reminded of the need after seeing us at the event. In addition, there’s a longer-term impact, which is harder to gauge, in which over the six months, to year, or longer, following the event, patients come into your office, who initially learned about you through your community involvement.
Get Staff Input & Buy-In
All of our offices are dedicated to supporting the communities in which they are located. Our staff loves to give back to the places where they work and live.
When we are developing our budget and plans for community activity, we ask our staff for feedback. Many are involved on their own with charities that they can educate us about, and connect us to people within those charities, who can help facilitate our practice’s participation.
Staff participation is not required at any of our community events, but attendance as volunteers is always high.
It’s important to get ideas and buy-in from your staff, as you often need at least a few, if not more, of them to participate. For example, if you participate in a health fair, you would want at least a few employees, along with a doctor, or two, to be on hand to answer questions about your practice from those visiting your booth, and to hand out branded giveaways or coupons.
A community event is a rare opportunity to introduce the community, not just to your practice and its services, but to your people, so making sure those people are as excited as you are about the event is a must.
Publicize Practice Participation on Social Media
Facebook and Instagram, including both the practice’s, and individual doctor’s, and staff member’s, pages, is a great place to post photos of events. You can take pictures with members of your community, or officials of your community who also participate in the charity event, or fair, and you can also post accompanying eye health tips.
For example, you can take a photo beside a poster in your booth at a health fair showing the inside of an eye, and note the importance of yearly exams, or you can pose with members of a local softball team you are helping to sponsor, noting the sunwear, provided by your practice, that they all are wearing. You can then include a message explaining the importance of protecting eyes from the sun.
You also can post photos to your social media and practice web site that simply show you and your staff participating in a charity, like a local beach cleanup, so current, and prospective, patients, see that you share their values. The younger generation, the Millennials, often are looking for businesses that share their values, and practice corporate social responsibility, so showcasing your participation in charities can result in new appointments.
A practice that reaches out to its community will find a community that reaches back–and spreads the word.
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Brooke Schaeffer-Kaplan, OD, is an optometrist at Schaeffer Eye Center, a 16-location practice in Alabama, founded by her father, Jack Schaeffer, OD, that is now a part of MyEyeDr. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org