Computer business charity support program

I’ve made several posts on what I’d recommend to a computer company if I had the ear of someone in charge. I’m going to do so again, but this one’s a bit different. This one isn’t a ‘headed to the future’ post, but instead is a proposal. It takes advantage of a range of things I’ve learned over the past few years.

I’d propose an operation that provides less than cost support to small non-profits. Specifically, lease systems WITH TECH SUPPORT to small non profit organizations. Let me dig out some details.

As I noted yesterday, a surprising number of small non profit organizations are using older computers, and they’re in desperate need of tech support. Small non profits – one or two person shops getting less than $150,000 in receipts – are very, very good at their interest. It’s just very uncommon that they’re also good at computers. They can use them (at least most can), it’s just that when the inevitable problem happens they’re stuck. When it happens, their cause suffers.

By leasing systems, and more importantly by providing tech support, our computer company can do a lot of good for both the non profit and for themselves.

The non profit gets a better, newer computer. Even better, they get good support. They can get on with the business of doing good, letting the computer be like the car and the phone; just another tool.

The biggest gain for the computer company is that they quit being ‘just another computer company’. For at least the people to whom they’re leasing and providing support, they the third company. Apple, other computers, and This Company. Yes, I’m repeating what I said in the other messages. For most customers there’s apple and all the Windows Boxes, and no real difference among the brands of the latter. Becoming the Other Company is a major objective.

In addition to that there are the classic gains of charitable support. There’s the tax write off for in kind contributions. There’s the general and specific PR benefit. There is the unquantifiable gain contributing to the general good.

But I want to look at a detail, here. Specifically, why lease? Why not just give the computers and tech support?

The biggest reason is leverage. Assume I lease for half the cost. By doing so I get two charities supported where before I supported only one.

A second reason is practicality. There are charities that are, well, they’re hobbies. Not passions, hobbies. The people involved SAY they’re trying to do good, but if you get to digging you discover it’s a couple of newsletters and a quarterly trip to pick up or deliver some goods. There has to be a floor. The easiest floor is forcing them to pay some of the cost. If I donate, I want my donation to do something. I cannot see a computer company being any different in that opinion.

Thirdly, leasing increases contact. With a lease I’ve a reason to get in touch with my clients on a regular basis without it seeming like I’m trying to sell them something. In part it’s proactive tech support. In part it’s a reminder that “I’m here, I care.” Remember that a critical reason for doing this is to make my brand stand out from the other brands.

So what about downsides? The biggest downside is that when the lease expires, the old equipment must be dealt with. Used computers just don’t sell very well. There’s a system in place in all major computer manufacturers for leased equipment. However, there’s an opportunity to reinforce the process.

If someone leases a system for two or three years, offer a reduced rate just for the tech support, and ‘give’ them the computer, for the remainder of a four or five year window. Not more than that or tech support is going to be too expensive. But “Hey, this is now YOUR computer” is one more gain in the customer loyalty line.

If the non-profit is doing well, by the end of five years they’ll probably be too large to receive the lease deal. By standing by the organization in the hard times, the company is more likely to be ‘first’ when the next purchases are made. “I’m getting good support from X,” is always a selling point when people ask friends and acquaintances about systems as well.

In the end, it’s another way to do well by doing good.

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