50 free concerts were held at the Levitt Pavilion in Denver this summer, in addition to ticketed shows featuring the Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World.
The community gigs were organized by the Levitt Pavilion Foundation, a non-profit that built the $4.8 million outdoor amphitheater in 2016 with the help of city bonds and charitable donations.
And the biggest corporate sponsors for this project?
Cannabis grower and dispensary company, the Colorado Harvest Company, and vape
manufacturer, O.pen VAPE. “It’s a great way for a marijuana company to participate with the
community and the city and support an awesome non-profit,” Colorado Harvest Company CEO
Tim Cullen told the Denver Post.
Making a difference in your community is especially important when you’re in the cannabis
industry. Pot businesses are still overshadowed by stigma, but supporting community and
charitable programs can help show your business in a positive light.
A 2017 Cone Communications survey showed 87% of Americans will buy a product because a company takes a stand on issue they care about, while a 2015 Pwc study showed 81% of millennials are willing to pay more for a sustainable product.
People are becoming more environmentally-conscious, more politically-aware, more proactive in their research, and more responsible in their actions and their purchase decisions.
Companies are adapting to this transformation. Now more than ever, having a solid Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platform is crucial to business success.
People care, but they’re not gullible. When you’re developing your CSR strategy, it’s important that it’s authentic.
If you establish principles, make sure you stick to them. If the environment is your priority, assess every facet of your company to make your processes more sustainable. Avoid “woke-washing” – hanging onto the coattails of a popular cause because it makes you look good.
Consider what issues matter most to you, and how you can help. What motivates you to make a positive impact?
Matthew Huron, CEO of Colorado-based Good Chemistry Nurseries, was inspired to develop a cannabis co-op and give away cannabis to men dying from AIDS after witnessing how the drug helped alleviate symptoms of the syndrome for his father and his father’s partner. “My dad’s partner Elmar was in an assisted living facility at the time, and members of that community were finding therapeutic benefit from cannabis … and my father and Elmar and I began cultivating cannabis and started a medical cannabis co-op called the Elmar Lins Compassion Co-Op,” Huron told The Pulse..
Despite the good that charitable donations from cannabis companies can do, and despite the small legal risk in accepting them, many nonprofits are hesitant to accept donations from the weed industry.
Charities may fear tax implications, donator base resistance, or banking restrictions. Colorado Children’s Hospital Foundation, for instance, refuses monetary donations from weed businesses because their bank won’t accept money from the pot industry.
Michael Ray, CEO of Bloom Farms, was regularly rejected by would-be partner charities when developing his food-security initiative, “We’re just trying to make a positive impact on our community. It was relatively shocking to see how difficult that was.”
Eventually, Ray got a meeting with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, which led to the 1-to-1 program. For every tincture, vape pen, or bag of bud that Bloom Farms sells, the California producer donates a meal to the food bank.
It’s been a success. Bloom Farms has now donated more than two million meals to those in need, and the 1-to-1 program has expanded to six food banks in California and two in Nevada.
It’s also been good for business. The company’s mission to end hunger defines its purpose and identity. The 1-to-1 program gained a ton of (free) earned media, and, in a market with similar products and comparable prices, having a cause makes the Bloom Farms brand stand out.
If you can’t find a charity to work with, you can also consider donating to a nonprofit that dishes out your donations for you. Denver-based Responsible Jane is a non-profit that finds community and medical research organizations in need, gives grants, and tracks the impact of your donation.
Alternatively, drop us a line. We’ll help you find your cause and the ideal partners to work with. We’ll build your program, we’ll make it a success, and we’ll give you the means to tell people about it.
Developing a solid CSR strategy is essential to the success of your cannabis business. Committing to a cause will help you overcome stigma, build trust, gain publicity, and, most importantly, make a difference in your community.