Small businesses and startups must work hard to keep up: time is of the essence, funds are limited and shrinking, and complacency is a no-go or you simply die out. Philanthropy is often a challenge in the whirlwind of small business challenges, it’s the one item that gets cut, and then you’re standing there shamed and wondering why you cut the giving funds, and how to take it all back. Striking the balance between earning and giving back is essential and one of the toughest tricks in the book.
According to a recent philanthropic study by Cone Communications, community involvement can pay off in the form of good will. The study found 85% of consumers have a more positive image of a company when it supports a cause, and 90% of consumers want companies to share with them the ways in which they are supporting causes.
Keep this in mind and feel content exploring public relations opportunities to promote the ways you give back. By making the public aware of your efforts, you are not “tooting your own horn,” but instead making your customers aware and inspiring them to join your efforts. Need more encouragement? This same study announced that 41% of respondents said they had purchased a product because they were aware it was aligned with a cause or issue they cared about.
By no means should the benefits of marketing exposure and the impact on your reputation be your reason for giving, but they are a definite bonus. When you are out giving your time, you are meeting people you may not have otherwise met and you’re telling them about your business. Being a purpose-driven business helps to position your business in a good light and strengthens your reputation over time.
Getting started is easy when you keep these tips in mind:
- Size Doesn’t Matter—Philanthropy is about driving change in the world, and this has nothing to do with the size or scope of your business. Don’t be fooled into thinking that only large corporations are the ones giving money or affecting change, it’s simply not so. Also, don’t let the word philanthropy cause you to hesitate. Philanthropy is simply giving, and your business doesn’t have to be huge. You just have to have a big heart and a passion for giving back.
- Discover what moves you—What motivates you? There might be a correlation between your business and a cause that moves you. If you own an educational company, there may be an opportunity to tutor inner city children for free, or if your company makes a food item, perhaps you can feed the homeless. Take some time to think about what feels good for you or what might be related to the business you have built, and the dots will connect.
- Budget—Create a budget for giving toward the cause of your choice in the same way you budget for any other line item in your company. Plan on spending a set amount every month toward your cause. If you are still building your discretionary funds, then donate your time in the meantime. Volunteering is another way to become active with your chosen charity. You could also find a way to have your employees donate time by dedicating a set amount of work time to a charity, such as mandating that every Wednesday morning everyone reports to an animal shelter to feed the animals or walk the dogs instead reporting to the office. This is just as valuable as donating money.
- Research—Vet any charity that sparks your interest and make sure the money is going to the right place.
- Set a Goal—A firm goal and a five-year plan will help keep you focused. Be strategic with your giving and plan ways to raise money; if you start with a plan, it will make planning events and fundraising opportunities more focused.
Theresa Roemer is an expert in business philanthropy and works regularly with major motion pictures, television studios, corporations, and high profile brands to expand their philanthropic reach to raise millions of dollars through business charity events. Theresa consults with large organizations to understand their business goals with fundraising, and then turns those objectives into a reality with her ability to produce high-impact business fundraising events.