Philanthropy and your small business, part 1: Charitable giving
When you think of corporate philanthropy, names like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Gates come to mind. But you don’t have to be a captain of an industry to become a philanthropist. As a small business owner, you’re in a unique position to make positive changes in your community and beyond through charitable giving and community involvement. At the same time you’ll be building your reputation with customers as a good corporate citizen and building awareness about your business.
The first article in this series focuses on how to plan charitable giving and how it can benefit your community, your customers, and your company.
Choose a cause that ties into your business
The cause you support should have a logical tie-in with your business and your mission. For example, if you have a pet supply store, supporting your local humane society is a natural tie-in. A fitness center might choose to support a local chapter of the American Heart Association.
You should also consider where your customers are. If you do business entirely within your community, focus your charitable giving on local organizations. If you do business nationwide, you may want to support a national organization.
Do your homework first
You want to make sure your contributions are used wisely. Before you decide to support any charitable organization, check their background including what percentage of donations goes to administrative costs and how much goes to actual charitable work. You’ll find information on web sites such as the U.S. Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator. You can also check with your local Better Business Bureau or state attorney general’s office.
Make a long-term commitment
You’ll create more impact and do more good with an on-going plan for giving rather than a one-time event. For example, spread out your contribution to cover the whole year; some organizations let you become a “sustaining member” for as little as $5 per month. Some companies donate a percentage of their annual profits to organizations like 1% for the Planet which supports environmental causes.
Involve your employees from the start
Your employees can derive pride and satisfaction from knowing they are giving back, too. Invite them to have a voice in deciding which activities to support and you’ll have their buy-in from the start. To encourage employee participation, offer paid volunteer days and recognize those who give their time.
Involve your customers, too
In a 2010 study, 90% of consumers surveyed want to know what causes businesses support, and 79% said they would switch to a brand that was associated with a good cause.*
Make sure your customers are aware of charities you support. Add information and links on your web site and Facebook page. Take advantage of media coverage of charitable events you and your employees are involved in. You can also give customers an opportunity to take part in volunteer projects.
When your business supports a worthy cause, it can have a positive impact on employee morale, customer loyalty, and how your company is regarded as a corporate citizen. And you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference on more than the bottom line.
Check back for the second part of this article series, which offers specific ways to get involved.
*2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study © 2010 Cone Communications
Kelly Burkart is a freelance writer from Minneapolis, Minn. While she has spent most of her time writing about financial services the past 15 years, she has also explored and written about everything from cardiovascular health to travel, higher education and sustainable energy practices.