Charitable Giving Is Good for Your Business
Donating to worthy causes can benefit the givers as much as the receivers. When it’s done strategically, charitable giving is good for business — and we're not just talking about potential tax deductions. While the organization appreciates your donation (financial or otherwise), you can promote your charitable activities to build good will in the community, enhance customer loyalty, heighten brand awareness, and, yes, even increase sales.
Where should you start? Three simple rules of thumb can help you find the charity that's right for you and your business:
- Pick a cause that you believe in. This helps elevate your involvement from something you feel you should do to something you truly enjoy doing.
- Look for a local charity. Knowing that you're helping your own community can make your involvement more meaningful, especially if it also enhances the well-being of family and friends.
- Find a cause that relates to your business. If you run a sporting goods store, why not sponsor a kids' soccer league or Little League team? Support a charity that affects and influences your target market.
Next, check to ensure your charity of choice is a legitimate organization. Look it up on Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator that assesses the financial health, accountability, and transparency of the largest charities in the United States. The site offers helpful information on more than 5,000 charities (and does not accept money from the organizations it evaluates).
Once you've settled on a charity, here are a few actions you can take to make the most of your involvement:
Promote your efforts. Are you donating goods or services to a local charity? Send out a press release with photos highlighting your efforts to media outlets in your community. Ask the organization benefiting from your donation to mention you in its promotional materials, too. Meanwhile, note your charitable activities in your advertising and marketing materials (newsletters, brochures, etc.). Disseminate information about the charity as part of doing business — everything from displaying pamphlets in your store to having employees wear a pin or button spotlighting the organization. Provide special offers or discounts to people associated with the charity. Consider donating a certain percentage of your sales to the cause.
Network with other donors. Donations certainly can include writing checks or sponsoring a charitable dinner. But if you have the time, try to attend planning meetings and other events, so you can network with others involved in the same cause. You'll make valuable new contacts with people already "in your corner," so to speak, when it comes to like-minded charitable pursuits. (This can be particularly helpful for independent professionals like accountants and insurance representatives, who rely on personal relationships for their business.)
Involve your staff and customers. Many employee surveys show that workers value their company's charitable activities and take pride in participating, too. The same goes for customers. When they feel good about a business that supports local and civic causes, they're more likely to spread the word about it to their families and friends.
Giving to a worthy cause makes good business sense. Make the practice part of your overall business strategy, and you'll quickly see it's a win-win situation.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.