Marketing of philanthropic activities is not a new concept and now appears to be the norm for most law firms with their involvement in various charitable campaigns, fundraising events and pro bono work. What is surprising is the low profile these activities have on law firm websites and the lack of a consistent approach within the profession. An informal survey of 15 large to mid-size law firm websites found Corporate Responsibility under the following sections:
- “About Us” section – 10 sites
- “Student Recruitment” section – 4 sites
- “Home Page” – 1 site had a direct link on its home page
Bank and accounting firm websites are more consistent with their approach to publicizing their philanthropic activities, with most Corporate Responsibility pages published under the About Us section.
There are many marketing benefits from philanthropic activities including costs which are lower than other marketing initiatives, increased media exposure and brand recognition. For example, the cost of sponsoring a table at a charitable event is not usually significant and provides a great opportunity to promote the corporate brand and network with clients who are invited to attend the event. Another low cost philanthropic initiative is the holiday e-cards, where some firms indicated that the money saved from printing and mailing out print holiday cards would be donated to charities.
Law firms are actively involved with many charitable and fund raising events. Some have Committees or Foundations established that administer firm-wide charitable giving and sponsorships.
The most popular appears to be the “United Way Campaign”, which can involve fundraising events like Bake Sales, Pizza Lunches, Silent Auctions, Raffles and Employee Pledge forms. These events are marketed extensively within the firm, raise quite of bit of money for the United Way and are a fun way to boost employee morale while giving back to the community.
Firms support individual causes that may have had a direct impact on employees such as “Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure” or “The Weekend To End Breast Cancer”. They also participate in law firm challenges such as the “Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Ride for Diabetes Research” or the “Legal Post Toronto Literacy Challenge”.
Some law firms also actively encourage volunteerism by giving employees time off to volunteer, or provide matching donations for hours of volunteer work or for time spent on charitable board memberships. An article from the Financial Post on December 15th, 2010 highlights other great charitable work that law firms are doing.
So why are these activities not given a higher profile on law firm websites—and where is the logical place to market this information? Although it is not a core part of the business, corporate responsibility does help to project a positive image about community involvement for prospective clients, employees and students. This information should be more accessible on law firm websites from menus or links on the home page. The About Us or firm profile section seems to be the most logical place to market corporate responsibility. The Internet has become the primary medium of communication and the firm website should reflect the core business, people and values of the firm.