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So you want to implement a referral program in your company, but you don’t want to go the traditional route. You also want to create an incentive that will make people want to be a part of your program. On top of all that, you want to make a difference in the community. This may mean a community referral program is a perfect fit for you.

You may be asking yourself “what is a community referral program?” Well, it’s simple… You reward the community or an entity in the community instead of rewarding an individual customer. It’s basically a referral program where the rewards are more like donations or charity. You give to local businesses, nonprofits, and schools and in return, and you still gain new customers out of the process. The cool thing is, a lot of your customers are already willing to refer. So if you give them a good reason to refer (like that they would be helping out the community), they’d be happy to. A lot of people will be happy to help you out if it means that they’d be doing good for their community. 

Who are you helping?

There are a few ways you can start a community referral program. You first need to think of who the rewards will go to. Is there a specific school in the area you want to support? Is there local nonprofit you want to help? Or is there an individual in the community that needs a helping hand? Perhaps you leave the donation part up to your customers. You have them tell you what local organization or school to donate to. The options are endless, you just have to choose how the program intertwines with the community.

Community Referral Program

How will you help them?

After you thought about who you want to help out, you need to think of how you will actually help them. Are you going to give them a dollar amount? Could you offer them some of your products or services? This is your time to shine. This is your turn to give back to the community, with the help of your own customers. You can think outside of the box on this one.

Example 1: Perhaps you use a school to bring in new customers. For example, if you’re a bakery you can have the school run a bake sale. The kids could sell your bakery items, and then you can split the proceeds with the school. This way, new people will have the chance to try your sweets and the school benefits. Because of this, you may end up getting all sorts of new regular customers. 

Example 2: Maybe there is a local school that needs specific items. You can run a referral program so that proceeds go towards purchasing that specific item. For example, a school may want to purchase a new smart board or a set of computers for their lab. Make it so each time someone is referred to your company, you put a small amount of money (i.e: $5, $10, etc.) towards that goal. Design a goal board so that your customers know how many more referrals they need to send in so that the school can get the new item.

Example 3: Let’s say you’re a local dentist. You want to do some good for the community, so for each referral someone sends you, you will donate a tooth care kit (you know… the little bag someone gets after their dental appointment, with toothpaste, floss, toothbrush, etc.) to a local shelter. You can title the campaign a fun name like “Give a Smile” or “Share a Smile”. The options really are endless.

The point is, there are so many options of ways to turn your referral program into a community referral program. The point is to give back to the community, by using your referral program.

Are there other benefits for your customers?

Another thing to think about is whether there will be any other benefits to your customers. Sometimes giving on their behalf is good enough. You can, however, sweeten the deal by giving them a small gift too. Whether it be $5 or a coupon for your store. It can also be something simple like a swag with your company name on it. You can also just send them a thank you card. Since you’re already giving back to the community because of them, they will feel good regardless. But if you give them a little something too, they will be over the moon and happy to have helped. They will probably even refer more people.

If you don’t want to get completely over your head, you can create a stipulation so you’re not handing out rewards left and right. A simple rule like, for every 5 referrals a customer sends you, the customer will earn a $5 coupon or a free item of their choice (depending on the price point of what you sell). This way your customers know they are doing something good for the community, but they are getting a little extra out of the deal too.

There are a ton of ways to reward the customers for referring you, new customers. Let’s view some examples of how to tie that in with your community referral program.

This also makes for a great way to engage with your online community too.

Have a grand prize winner

Each time a customer sends you a referral, put their name into a drawing. Have a grand prize winner at the end of a certain period. Perhaps you have a monthly winner, a winner every few months, or a quarterly winner. This will give your customers another reason to stay engaged with your referral program. They will be helping the community, plus they could win a cool prize. Using gamified strategies like this can also help boost engagement! 

Community Referral Program Prize

Give to both them and the community

This works well in small amounts. You could run the program by giving the customer who refers a friend some cash. Let’s say if someone refers a friend you’ll give them $5 along with donating $5 to the organization you want to help.

Reward them with discounts

You want to give your customer something for referring and for helping the community, but you don’t want to break the bank. Give them a coupon or discount for your store. That way, they continue to purchase from you, and they feel rewarded for their efforts. You could run a program where you donate to a community organization when someone refers a friend, and for the customer’s efforts, they will get a 25%(or percentage of your choice) coupon for their next purchase. You win, they win, the community wins.

Thinking of who and how your referral program will affect the community are the most important aspects of its creation. The entire point of a referral program is to gain new leads or customers. But there is an added element when it comes to a community referral program. Community referral programs are all about your customers helping you so that you can help others. It’s a community effort for a community cause. The cool thing is, people, love knowing that they are helping the community thrive. Also, a lot of people will help you if they know that their efforts are also going towards something they feel strongly for. You may be surprised by how many of your customers are tied to a particular school or organization in your community and how willing they would be to help.

Community Referral Program Headlines

Let’s talk about some possible headlines for your community referral program. Remember referral program headlines need to show the reason why people should join. You don’t need to stuff too much in there, just mentioning who and why are good enough. When it comes to community referral programs, it’s really important to mention everyone that will benefit from the program.Community Referral Program Headlines

Here are a few examples:

  1. Refer a friend, and we’ll donate $10 to the local school of your choice.
  2. Help us, help others. Refer your friends and we will give the local animal shelter $20 on your behalf.
  3. We will give you $5 and the school  $5 for their computer program when you bring in a friend.
  4. Refer a friend to Our Insurance Company! We’ll reward you with a $5 gift card, and we’ll donate $5 for each referral to our sponsored charity of the quarter.
  5. Join our annual school donation drive. For each referral you send, we will donate $10 to the school. Every referral enters you into the drawing. The winner of the drawing will help us deliver the check to the school of the year.

There are so many ways you can run a community referral program. The main goal is to have a fundraising element. The second goal is to get your customers to refer you, new customers. In the end, everyone will be happy. 

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Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.