Small Business and Charity Can (and should) Work Together
Don't Just Mail a Check, get some marketing mileage out of your contribution
Caring for a Cause can be Good for your Small Business
Many business owners I encounter say they want to "give back" and will start doing so after they ...hit it big. I'm sure many of them mean what they say and I'm equally sure that many, many of them will never get to the point where what they've achieved is enough to start "giving back".
Should You make A Charitable Cause Part of Your Small Business Model Instead of Just a Part of Your Hopes?
There are many benefits to a business if they make a serious and genuine effort to support a charitable cause on a consistent and ongoing basis. A few well known businesses do this and many other lesser known companies do as well. Business charity is not only good for your communities..it's good for your business.
The best known of these companies is Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Foundation. Every year Ben & Jerry's contributes a percentage of their profits to the foundation and distributes grants based on a complex process of applicatsions and evaluation. What they do is not nearly as important as how they do it. Everything you see from Ben & Jerry's references their commitment to this charitable cause. It's on the ice cream containers, the Ben & Jerry website and all promotional materials. Why does Ben & Jerry's do what they do?
First, I think they truly care about giving back and making a difference in communities.
Second, it's great for employees. Nearly everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Third...it's great for business. Supporting a company that is trying to do more than just earn a profit is emotionally satisfying for a large percentage of people.
Can every business do what Ben & Jerry's does? Probably not but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything. Give this some thought, how much is it worth to have employees who care just a little more? Or customers who respect what you do a little more? Or suppliers who respect what you're trying to do?
Here's How the National Park Service Depends of CharitableGiving
Getting Started with a Charity You Respect is more than Half the Battle
It has been my experience that, like many things in small business and life, getting started is the most difficult part. It doesn't have to be complicated. Here are some ideas on how to start, this worked for us:
- Be genuinely committed, no faking it! - Make the commitment that supporting a cause is part of your business, everyday..not just when it's convenient or when you're rolling in the money.
- Pick a Cause You or Your Employees have or can develop an emotional attachment to - In my business we support two causes every year. One is Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. We support this cause because an associate in our firm is very committed to this organization. He sits on the board and works tirelessly at fund raising for this terrible but under-funded disease. Our other cause is the Pulmonary Hypertension Association for whom we sponsor the annual fundraisers The Woodlands CrawPHish Festival. We chose this effort because a local attorney and friend of our firm, whose family has been touched in a very personal way by this disease, is very active and works year-round to raise money to cure adolescent pulmonary hypertension. In addition, this Crawfish Festival is great fun and we invite employees, clients and referral sources for a great day.
- Commit to a Financial Contribution - The tendency with many is to view charitable donations as the "extra" money available in a good year. Although any contribution is good, it is better for your business and the charity if you make a financial commitment and stick to it. This will allow you to market your good deeds all year 'round and not just wait for the typical year end rush that gets lost in the craziness of the Holidays.
- Market Your Charitable Efforts Consistently - By making your financial commitment without fail, you can embed that in your marketing efforts. Market your support on your website and other marketing materials that you are producing anyway...there's no additional costs. As an example, I have recently been invited by a financial advisory firm to a wine event by Tithe Wines. The mission of Tithe Wines is to make great wines AND contribute 10% of their revenue (not profits.. 10% of top line revenue, that's a commitment) to Living Water which is a charity with a mission to provide clean, safe water in poverty stricken places around the world. Had Tithe wines not partnered with a financial adviser who I know to present this event, it is highly unlikely I would have ever heard of this wine. Now I get to try some new wines and help bring clean water to people that need it. Tithe Wines is doing their part by supporting a great cause and I'm happy to help them do so.
With business charity, doing good can go hand in hand with a business doing well. In fact it can help give you an edge. Start with your employees, find a cause they can connect with then build that commitment into your business plan and day-to-day activities. Getting input from your employees will give you a better understanding of the things important in their lives and that can help you better understand the challenges the face. Your employees increased bond with you and your company will result in better performance for them and for the business.
Small business owners can make a difference in their communities and can make a big difference over a long period of consistent charitable contributions. Get involved, do good.
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This article is provided for thought and discussion only and is not legal, accounting or tax advice. Seek appropriate council from licensed professionals before taking any action. This content is copyright protected and can not be reproduced without the written consent of Sunbelt Business Brokers Houston Texas or Dan Elliott.
Here are organizations we support: