Connecting With Communities: Strengthen Your Brand Through Charity Storage
At a defining moment in the self-storage industry, when profits are at an all-time high, Haviland Storage Services operates with a philanthropic focus on connecting with their community. Under the leadership of owner and operator Sue Haviland, employees are empowered to support causes dear to their hearts through the many ways to give back with Charity Storage.
“I saw Charity Storage as a wonderful way for our stores to do something in their local communities,” says Haviland. “I’ve been on the board for seven or eight years now. It just started with wanting to help people in my community, and then I saw that I had the ability to help with all the trade shows I spoke at. I connect with so many people when I go out and visit their sites, so I knew I could use those connections for good.”
Haviland manages 13 facilities, assisting operators with hiring, training, and day-to-day operations. “The goal is to have those small operators be able to operate just as well as the guys with the big budgets,” she says.
One of Haviland Storage Service’s specialties is training. “When we put people behind the counters, we try to make sure they have all the tools and training accessible to them to feel confident in the service they give their customers,” Haviland says. “It’s key to have someone behind the counter that customers feel will care about their things as much as they do. We used to hire caretakers because it is important to have people that are empathetic and personable.”
Brand Connection Now, an investment in their local communities helps Haviland’s customers connect with their brand. Haviland knew that she could encourage confidence in her team to participate in Charity Storage with the right tools and guidance. “Charity Storage is great because your teams can have input into what they’re doing and help their communities as well,” says Haviland.
She notes that once you get your managers’ buy-in to participate in the program, the sky is the limit for what you can do for your community. “We’ve got to talk to the owners to get their permission to be doing it while simultaneously encouraging the managers at the stores who are going to drive it and make it successful, so it is a team effort,” says Haviland. “We let our teams pick their charity. The program works best when your team is working towards something that is in their hearts.”
An exclusive perk of the Charity Storage program is the freedom it grants operators and managers to choose the charity they support. “There are big charities out there that you can donate to, but I find that people are more inclined to participate when they’re donating locally. That way you can see the difference in your community when you donate,” Haviland says.
Occupancy rates in the self-storage industry have skyrocketed in recent years, making it harder for operators to justify reserving a unit for charity auctions. “I always present to owners and operators that if they do not want to give up a unit, there are other ways to still participate,” says Haviland. “For example, when people lose their keys and must pay to have their locks cut, those fees can be donated to charity. I also suggest giving a piece of their administrative fee. You can have an amount set up; you know, a quarter each month. We also try not to do anything bigger than a 10-by-10 unit; we find that it is easier to sell when the unit isn’t so big.”
She goes on to say, “I understand the pushback of not wanting to give up a revenue-producing unit. I always ask if they have one that is hard to sell. Use the ones that are odd-shaped and damaged that you would not rent to a paying customer right now. That is what we have been doing at a few of my stores. There is always a way that an operator can participate.”
Haviland continues to be a tireless champion for Charity Storage and its mission to help self-storage operators give back to their local communities. “I recommend engaging in the Charity Storage program to operators all the time,” she says. “Whenever I go to tradeshows and speak about Charity Storage, I am always amazed at the people who did not know what it was. I keep a bag of swag in the trunk of my car; I am always traveling with Charity Storage goodies.”
If you wish to learn more about Charity Storage, say hi to Haviland when you see her at the next conference or visit www.charitystorage.org.
About Charity Storage Charity Storage was conceived by Lance Watkins, who had first-hand experience with the storage industry and with the reality television show Storage Wars. The late Barry Hoeven, founder of Westport Properties, co-founded Charity Storage, bringing many years of self-storage and philanthropy experience to the endeavor. Today, Charity Storage is an independent 501(c)3 national self-storage industry nonprofit that is supported by many self-storage owners, operators, management companies, industry associations, organizations, and vendors. Ninety percent of all funds raised are distributed to qualifying charitable organizations (60 percent to the charity chosen by the operator/facility, 20 percent to Kure It Cancer Research, and 10 percent to the Self Storage Association Foundation [SSAF] Scholarship Program).
Charity Storage utilizes existing storage facility operations to raise funds to support charities throughout the United States. Donated and abandoned items are placed into a vacant unit and the contents are auctioned off on site or online via StorageTreasures.com or other online auction platforms. Operators online with StorageTreasures.com can opt-in via their account dashboard today and start selling charity units immediately.