Most companies give a lot of money away to charities. But far fewer do it with a comprehensive strategy. It’s not really that surprising, if you think about it. And this is particularly true for small to medium sized businesses (with revenue ranging from $1 million to $50 million) because they are typically privately held and are therefore less bound by requirements to provide information. Many of these companies are led by entrepreneurs or closely held by families. Each group of owners has a different mindset, but for the most part, their passion is not giving money away. Their focus is selling widgets, servicing customers, providing information or doing something else that fuels the company’s revenue.
Their giving is not core to the mission of the company, and therefore, whatever giving does happen typically is driven by the owner’s nonprofit board work, from a request for support from a friend or from a specific personal passion. This giving is all important for those organizations they support, and it provides nice tax benefits for the company. Supporting these organizations also makes owners feel good – for all the right reasons. What’s missing for many of them, however, is the opportunity to align the giving with their core business (or something related to their business). There is a huge opportunity here that most small to medium sized business owners don’t seize: creating a platform to frame their charitable giving. Why is that important if you’re a business owner?
- Maximizes the impact of the gifts – it provides focus to your giving, enabling you to go deeper into issues rather than giving a little bit to lots of organizations
- Gives you a way to talk about your efforts that is different from naming the organizations or the total amount donated each year
- Makes employees feel good about the company they work for when they know their company stands for something – particularly if it directly impacts them or people they know
- Provides a way to say no to opportunities that don’t fit within the criteria you establish – you can say, “I’m sorry we can’t support you and here’s why”. Without the framework, saying no can easily turn into bad PR in the community
Creating a framework takes some time and can easily be viewed as a low priority because the return on the investment to develop a framework is less tangible than the results of, say, bringing in a new customer. Yet the goodwill that you can create by clarifying your objectives and developing a Corporate Citizenship platform often leads to increases in sales, worker productivity and reduced turnover. Find the common threads to your business, your interests, and the needs within the community.
You’ll be happy you did.