How to Grow Your Interiorscape Brand Through Community Service

Community service should be a key business initiative in any industry.

As interiorscapers, we may not have the ability to write big donor checks, but we do have a significant in-kind resource: our plants, flowers, and labor for charity galas and events.

I can already hear your groan. We get solicited for donations all the time too. Sometimes “the asks” are overtly pushy, the committees disorganized, and the “cause” turns out to be a marketing project and not an actual bona fide non-profit.

Amidst all the noise, there are very worthy causes that benefit your local community and deserve your attention. When you match up with a charity that is important to you and your community, that connection is rewarding and has benefits well beyond the value of palm rental or centerpieces.

Be Strategic in Community service

At Planterra, we donate to about a dozen charity events per year for the sole purpose of supporting our community. We do not expect anything in return from the committee or the attendees. Donating is not a quid pro quo.

However, it would be untrue to say that we don’t get anything in return for participating. Of the direct benefits, community service floral arrangement we receive name-recognition, a positive association with a good cause, and, sometimes, complimentary tickets to attend the event. Social media has proven to deliver some of the biggest benefits, as the exposure on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are much larger than the events themselves.

Of the indirect benefits, there are of course the networking and hobnobbing. The intent is not to solicit a CEO for a plant contract, but it certainly is helpful for the top executive to be familiar with you company name. It doesn’t hurt to build a relationship with the executive’s spouse either.

What more is that your in-kind contribution puts you in good company. As big brands take the presenting sponsor slots with hard cash, your in-kind donations can position you to have your logo right below theirs.

Vet the community service opportunity  

I always laugh when a person calls me up and says their event attracts, “The very best, high-end, big spenders.” I usually respond, “You must have me confused with a casino.”

I laugh it off because the volunteer soliciting donation is telling me what they think I want to hear. What I really want to know is information on the cause, the track record of the event, how they raise money, and what they need from me.

For events that raise money via ticket sales, the ticket price helps me determine the value of what I am donating. Is it a luncheon or a gala? This is important because when in-kind donations are undervalued, it sets an unrealistic precedence. Attendees are largely unaware of the background work it takes to produce an event, so when an in-kind donor subsidizes an amenity that the ticket price cannot support, it becomes more difficult to meet those expectations at future events without the sponsor. No matter how great the cause, events are a form of entertainment and any disappointment will affect ticket sales for the next event.

Budget and be consistent in community service

floral arrangementAt my company, we budget a year in advance on what we plan to give and to which organization we will give it. If we have room in the budget for an extra event, then we’ll do it. When the budget is exhausted, we don’t take on any additional commitments.

We are also consistent in our donations. Most of the charity events we donate to, we do every year. The repetition is excellent for name recognition and is very helpful for the non-profit’s event planning.   Consistency builds a trust that is priceless.

Become a community brand

Becoming known in the community as a supporter of worthy causes is a form of brand building. These events truly matter. Everyone is connected somehow and in unexpected ways.  It is also personally satisfying to know that you did your part to contribute to a better world.


Check out some more articles on branding to develop your interiorscape business and market reach.

Shane Pliska is the President of Planterra Corporation in West Bloomfield, Michigan.  He oversees the company’s three business of interior landscaping, display services and events.  Planterra’s interiorscape division serves Detroit, Grand Rapids and Northeastern Ohio, and also maintains a portfolio of national accounts.  Shane is a graduate of Emerson College and serves on the board of the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce.  Follow Shane on Twitter @ShanePliska

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