We’ve always been a company that gives back,” said Scott Fader, COO of MileOne. “I think most car dealerships are.”

With the holiday season in full swing, dealerships around the country look to give thanks and support to their communities in celebration of the holidays and the coming year. But giving doesn’t just happen during the holidays. Many dealerships have integrated community involvement into their culture as a way to connect with customers and share their store’s values year-round.

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At MileOne, a group of more than 60 dealerships, philanthropy is a key component of the company’s mission and vision. General managers within the group are encouraged to support local community projects as a way to take action on the group’s mission of creating “lifetime relationships” with customers. In the past, these have included partnerships with the United Way, local children’s hospitals and Recycled Rides, to name a few.

In addition to the formal relationships MileOne’s dealerships have with local charities, many stores within the group also host informal community fundraising events, like “Pie-in-the-Face,” bake sales and happy hours benefiting charity, all of which customers are warmly invited to participate in.

The Maryland division of MileOne has also worked for the past 15 years to support the American Cancer Society.

“We wanted to support an organization the whole group could identify with,” said Fader. “The fight against cancer is something that’s touched everyone’s life.”

MileOne’s Social Media and Events Manager, Elizabeth Erwin, coordinates the group’s effort to participate in the ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the philanthropy’s major annual fundraising event. Erwin selects representatives from each of the Maryland stores to serve as liaisons between their respective dealerships and the corporate event team. The liaisons lead the charge to advocate for the cause and build excitement at their stores. Through a combination of fundraising efforts, mostly small donations of $5 or less, the group has raised over $2 million and contributed countless hours of service since the partnership started.

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Get Started – Choosing a Charity

To get started with your own community giving program, collectively brainstorm organizations and community needs with your employees, making sure that the cause aligns with your store’s brand and culture.. It’s great opportunity to ask the dealership staff about organizations with which they’re already involved, giving recognition to their personal community involvement while also providing the opportunity to build on existing relationships.

Promotion

Like any initiative to reach customers, promotion is key, according to the philanthropy pros at MileOne.  “Social media has been a great way to watch events grow this year,” said Erwin, who shared that posting photos and videos of community activities on social media is a powerful way to raise visibility for the charity and event, but also the dealership.

Sharing content through your dealership’s website, newsletter, Facebook page and Twitter account gives personality to the store and allows you to broadcast your values to those unable to attend the events themselves, showing you have a vested interest in your community.

Tip: Encourage attendees to share the content you post on your social media profiles with their networks to amplify your message even further.

Staffing

If staffing weekend community events is a concern because they overlap with peak business hours, consider hiring part-time or temporary staff for event promotion.

“We tended to shy away from events because we needed our people on the showroom floor,” explained Erwin. “Then we realized that hiring a small team of college students would allow us to interact with potential customers at events without losing resources at the dealership.”

It’s Okay to Start Small

MileOne is a great example of a group of dealerships giving back in a big way, but any dealership can make a difference in their community regardless of size or investment.  From organizing dealership employees to “Adopt a Family” for the holidays or collecting non-perishable food for a local food drive to matching your employees’ charitable gifts up to a pre-determined limit, there are many ways to give back that don’t require a significant investment of money or time.

For more information, the American Express OPEN Forum has a number of great articles on charitable giving:

Let us know!

Does your dealership support local community projects? Let us know in the comments below and share a photo of your recent community event on the DealerADvantage Facebook page.

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