Illustration by Liz Adams

Illustration by Liz Adams

Most of us feel great when we make a donation or support a local charity. Special events are a time-proven method for attracting new clients and connecting with your current clients. When you combine the best components of a party with a charitable purpose you are engaging in what is called cause marketing. The purpose of these type of events is to boost your business, bring recognition to the charity, and drive donations.

Good Works Can Be Good Business

Giving back to your community is important, but there are business-related perks that come from sponsoring a party with a purpose. First, good works can boost loyalty with your current clients. It makes them feel good about you and your business and they are more likely to write positive reviews, refer others, and become a repeat client. Attracting new clients is an added bonus. Every charity has at least three sources of potential clients for you: the board of directors, volunteers, and donors.

Positive marketing and PR are additional benefits. Newspapers, community calendars, event websites, radio and television stations all have policies for promoting charitable events, which provides you with free advertising. Giving back to your local community positions you as an active supporter, and locals love to support local businesses.

Look Before You Leap

Before you select a target charity, do your research. Every community has local charities in need of time, talent, and funds year-round. You want to partner with a charity that has a great reputation and that fits with your business. Begin with a list of local charities you are interested in and use the charity checklist [see sidebar] to evaluate them as potential partners.

The more closely the charity matches your target audience and business goals, the more successful your time and efforts will be. For example, if you wanted to increase the number of teens and their parents coming to your salon, then partnering with an organization such as Operation Graduation, which promotes safe and sane high school graduation nights, would be a good choice. Your party would put you in contact with not only teens but teachers, parents, grandparents, and other business supporters.

Once you have identified two or three potential charities it’s time for a personal call or visit. You might want to invite staff members to come with you. Schedule an appointment with the executive director, fundraising chair, or director of development. They can provide background on the charity, suggest ways that you can participate in special events they have planned, or share other successful party ideas for businesses like yours.


Wanda Belk, the owner of Zoe Nails at Ayrsley in Charlotte, N.C., hosted a Teal Toes and Teal Nails charity event to raise funds to fight ovarian cancer.

Wanda Belk, the owner of Zoe Nails at Ayrsley in Charlotte, N.C., hosted a Teal Toes and Teal Nails charity event to raise funds to fight ovarian cancer.

Types of Parties

There are a few different types of parties you can consider. There are events that you plan and execute by yourself or with your staff. You can participate in events that your target charity has planned and where you can provide a service. A third option is to participate in a jointly sponsored party with other businesses. This last option can be a great way to gain experience if you are new to planning special events or have limited space or resources.

Create a road map for your party by answering these key questions:

Why?: What do you hope to provide for the charity? What dollar amount in donations do you hope to bring in? Next, get specific about what you want to accomplish for your own business. It may be increased retail sales, gift certificates sold, or new clients through the door. Having a clear idea of what you hope to achieve before the party will help you evaluate your success.

Who?: If the entire salon will be participating, hold a staff meeting to discuss the details and expectations. Identify whether the charity will be able to provide additional volunteers on the day of the event. Map out the roles and responsibilities for each staff member and the volunteers. If you are a solo or very small business, be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to the event. Smaller businesses, even solo technicians, can still create a powerful event.

What?: What will this party look like? Pick a theme for your event with a catchy title that makes it easy for clients and the media to understand what you are promoting. Map out in detail what your offer, discount, service, or promotion is going to be.

Create a timeline for the event. Remember if you are going to plan a day-long or week-long event you will need more people, time, and supplies. Decide upon a budget for supplies, refreshments, decorations, and any other out-of-pocket expenses. If you are going solo, the scale of your party may be smaller but the impact can still be large.

Where?: If you have space in your salon you will want to host the event there. Your party will bring additional traffic to your location. You may think that all the businesses and locals in your neighborhood know about you — but a party with a charitable twist gives them a reason to actually walk through the door.

If you are a solo or mobile nail salon, you might want to participate in an event that the charity hosts at another location. I recently attended a “Mutts and Merlot” event at a local winery where a nail artist offered cat or dog paw nail art for a donation to the local shelter.

Other options for the solo or mobile tech are to create a day or a week of services targeted to the charity of choice with a special package, discount, or complimentary service added on. A percentage of the proceeds can then be donated to the charity. One option is to provide a complimentary add-on service for any client who makes a donation to your cause. It becomes a party by adding in complimentary refreshments, goody bags, or party favors.

When?: A successful party takes time to plan. The more time the better. Allow at least two months to get all your details organized and create enough buzz to assure a good attendance. Decide if the party will be just a few hours in length or a day-long event. When picking a date, be sure to check local event calendars published by your newspaper or chamber of commerce to identify any potential conflicts. Don’t shortchange your efforts by picking a day where party guests have multiple commitments.

How?: This is the nitty-gritty. Dive into the details. Create a budget for your event. If resources are limited you may be able to obtain donations of refreshments, flowers, or even help in exchange for cross marketing with other businesses.


In September 2011, West Chester, Pa.-based Calista Grand Salon and Spa broke a Guinness World Record for most haircuts and raised $15,000 to support cancer charities.

In September 2011, West Chester, Pa.-based Calista Grand Salon and Spa broke a Guinness World Record for most haircuts and raised $15,000 to support cancer charities.

Getting the Word Out

As soon as you have finalized your party details, post the information on your website. Create a Facebook event page and create a plan for posting the event early and often on all your social media accounts. Ask your chosen charity to post the event on their website, calendar of events, and social media accounts as well. Consider using an email invitation services that tracks RSVPs. They make contacting attendees a breeze. Create a flyer, invitation, or postcard to give to every client and share these invitations with local businesses. Have everyone in the salon talk up the party with their clients. Create a press release and reach out to local newspapers, radio and television stations, and bloggers for postings, articles, announcements, or interviews.

After the Event

You can start your follow up from the party before it even ends. Hand out party favors or goody bags with your card attached and include a “bounce back” offer. If the client returns within two weeks, makes an additional retail purchase, or buys a gift card, create a high-value, low-cost extra. For example you could include a complimentary add-on, pedicure upgrade, or single nail art design as a thank-you. Handing these out to guests as they leave is the best strategy. You have created a thank-you and a marketing reminder in one action. Follow up thank-you notes or emails are a must for all donors and attendees. Post pictures of the party on all your social media accounts. Finally, congratulate yourself and your staff on a job well done.

Charity Checklist

Finding the perfect charity to work with requires some research. These questions should be asked before you commit your time, talents, and energy to an organization:

  • Is the charity a registered 501(c)(3) organization? (This is a tax designation given by the federal government or the state.)
  • Are they in good standing with the local Better Business Bureau?
  • Does the charity’s board, volunteers, donors, or recipients align with your current client profile or a new target market you want to reach?
  • Are they open to negotiating a “win-win” relationship?
  • Do they have the capacity in terms of social media, manpower, and recognition to create a benefit for your business?
  • Do they currently partner with other local businesses for special events?
  • Are your current clients familiar with the charity?

5 “Cash-in-a-Flash” Holiday Ideas for Your Party With a Purpose

The holidays are known as the season for giving. These ideas create a quick cash infusion for your charity of choice while providing a little holiday fun.

1. Mistle-Toes Party. Plan a short after-work party to highlight your holiday nail services. Offer a $5-$10 discount on gift certificates sold during the party — the larger the gift card amount, the bigger the discount. (You’ll make it up on add-on services and retail). Additionally, earmark a portion of the gift certificate sales amount to donate to your target charity. That contribution will be tax-deductible for you. Offer light refreshments and invite attendees to try something different — from glitter nails to nail art for the holidays.
2. Shop, Mix, and Mingle. Invite local vendors such as jewelry boutiques, accessories vendors, and local craft soap makers to participate in a shopping event held in the salon. If a portion of all retail sales and gift cards sold during the event are dedicated to your charity, it can add up to a sizeable donation. Add to the pot by charging the vendors a small participation fee to offset expenses, refreshments, etc.
3. Drop In/Drop Off Party. Hold a fun day-long party where regulars and guests are invited to drop by the salon to drop off donations to your target charity. You can collect just about anything: canned food, new socks, coats, diapers — even pet toys. Have refreshments on hand all day. Create a fun raffle package for anyone who makes a donation to your cause to enter as a thank-you. Light refreshments in a holiday theme can be set up as a station and will not require additional labor.
4. Holiday Tea Party. Add tea-based products (green tea, peppermint tea) to your manicure and pedicure options. Serve a selection of complimentary hot and cold teas, spa waters, tea sandwiches, and cookies during the event. Your targeted charity receives the amount you charge for the service upgrade. Send clients home with a party favor of tea packets, a tea swizzle stick, or pretty teaspoon.
5. Holiday Giving Tree. Put your holiday tree to work for the charity of choice. Hang retail items for purchase on the tree with a targeted amount earmarked for your charity. As clients and guests make a purchase, remove the item and replace it with a cute cardboard or colored-glass ornament with their name on it. This is easily done with a gold or silver permanent marker. Call this a tree “un-trimming party.”

Parties With Purpose Planning Checklist

2-3 Months Before the Event

  • Research and decide on your charity of choice
  • Review local event calendars and identify any date conflicts
  • Define the event specifics:
  1. Date
  2. Type of Event
  3. Time
  4. Location
  5. Guest List
  6. Theme
  7. Budget
  • Communicate all details to your charity of choice and request website and social media posts from them to their list of contacts and social media accounts
  • Create a Facebook event page
  • Create flyers, postcards, invitations, and in-salon marketing materials
  • Post on all social media accounts
  • Meet with staff to map out duties, logistics, schedules, and dress code
  • Identify other businesses for cross marketing, donations, or promotions
  • Consider purchasing event insurance or check with your insurance provider regarding coverage for special events
  • Create a parking plan. If needed, ask for help from neighboring businesses — just be sure to invite them too!

2 Months Before the Event

  • Send a “Save the date” email blast to your mailing list
  • Contact local businesses to invite them to the event (especially those you do business with)
  • Coordinate with your charity regarding invitations to their board, donor list, and volunteer database
  • Continue to build excitement with social media posts
  • Develop a preliminary supply list
  • Identify any rental equipment needed
  • Create preliminary menu and identify whether you’ll need additional permits to serve alcohol

1 Month Before the Event

  • Create an in-salon display to promote the event
  • Create signs for the reception desk and client bathrooms, and stock the front desk with party invitations
  • Place a party invitation in each outgoing retail bag
  • Finalize your refreshment menu. Solicit donations if possible
  • Take inventory of your party supplies (napkins, plates, tablecloths, etc.)
  • Purchase decorations and any additional needed supplies
  • Recruit volunteers, if needed
  • Send final invitation to your email list. Use an online invitation service to track RSVPs such as Evite.

2 Weeks Before the Event

  • Check on RSVPs
  • Send a “We can’t wait to see you” e-blast to those who have responded
  • Resend party invitation to those on your email list who have not yet responded
  • Send press releases to local media and invite them to attend
  • Post on all social media accounts
  • Confirm staff schedules, duties, and responsibilities

1 Week Before the Event

  • Send reminder emails to those that have not responded
  • Follow up with any businesses that have offered donations and make final arrangements for delivery or pick up
  • Assemble goody bags or party favors
  • Confirm final details with your charity
  • Create a playlist for background music
  • Create sign-in sheet and assign a greeter (usually your front desk person)
2 Days Before the Event

  • Check the weather and if needed, identify a place for coats, umbrellas, etc.
  • Set up clean-up stations with paper towels and fabric stain removers for accidents
  • Inspect all guest areas. Stock the bathrooms with extra supplies.

Day of the Event

  • Set the stage with decorations, flowers, etc.
  • Set up beverage and food stations
  • Do a final check of the bathrooms
  • Double-check trash and recycling areas
  • Crank up the playlist
  • Arrange raffle items or other displays
  • Greet guests and have fun!

Follow Up

  • Assess if you met your target objectives for your business and the charity
  • Post pictures from the event on all social media accounts
  • Send thank-you notes to donors/attendees
  • Schedule a debrief phone call with your charity of choice and deliver donations
  • Create a press release stating the amount of donations received
  • Hold a celebratory staff meeting and ask for their feedback on the event
  • Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

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