Regardless of size, companies benefit when the community in which they do business thrives. For entrepreneurs, giving back to the community is more than just a charitable act; it makes good business sense. If you have been reluctant to get involved in philanthropic activities, fearing it could cost too much and distract your employees, think again. Community involvement can strengthen your company directly by bringing in new business and indirectly by enhancing your company’s reputation and improving employee morale.
Crafting a charitable giving strategy for your business involves more than just selecting a worthy organization and writing a check. While you may get a tax deduction on cash donations, your business may get considerably more out of community involvement, especially if you carefully consider the causes you want to support and the organizations that would make appropriate partners for your company.
The type of charitable giving you choose may be influenced by the type of business you operate, the interests of your employees, and the needs of the community. Whether your company produces goods or provides services, organizations within your community could likely benefit from your support. A restaurant or caterer, for example, could choose to donate leftovers to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. A construction company could donate materials and labor for building a community playground or renovating a youth center. Involvement in such worthy initiatives may be very effective in making a positive influence in the community.
To maximize the impact of your charitable efforts, your company (or the organization your company is helping) may choose to distribute a press release or inform the local media about upcoming events and activities. This often results in free—and positive—publicity for your company. It may also be possible for the charity to help increase your company’s visibility through its marketing resources. When partnering with a nonprofit, you may be able to arrange for your company’s name and logo to appear on the organization’s advertising materials and website.
Ongoing charitable involvement can help attract new customers and engender loyalty within your existing customer base. A company that donates a portion of its profits to worthy charitable causes may gain a competitive advantage. It can generate goodwill among customers and enhance your company’s reputation to be associated with important causes in your community, such as helping abused children, improving literacy skills, or finding homes for abandoned pets.
Employee morale can also be improved through charitable initiatives. When deciding which causes your business will support, be sure to include your employees, especially if you want them to participate in events. By asking your employees what causes are close to their hearts, you may discover that some have personal passions that can prove valuable to a charitable campaign. Providing paid time off for charitable work may be considered a valuable benefit by your staff. Having your employees volunteer as a group can serve as a positive team-building exercise, as well as provide a welcome break from the work routine.
Another benefit of giving back to the community is the potential for networking with other local businesses. Through professional clubs or your local chamber of commerce, you may meet other business owners who may want to cooperate with you in organizing events. By participating in charitable events, you and/or your employees may forge valuable friendships with other business owners, staff, and the media.
Regardless of your company’s size and resources, you can find a way to make a difference in your community. Even minor gifts—such as allowing your facilities to be used for a school event or donating used equipment—can go a long way toward making your community a better place to live and do business. And that’s the bottom line.