By Maria Valdez
One of the best ways to give back to the community that supports your business is by getting involved in charitable activities. The holidays are a natural time of year for starting a charitable giving program, since everyone’s in a generous frame of mind. As an added bonus, giving back to your community also raises your company’s profile in the community and makes customers and prospects feel better about your business—and more inclined to spend money with you.
How do you start a giving program? Here are some steps to get going.
Choose a cause. Your cause should be one that relates to your business, your community and your customers. For example, you might be really passionate about programs to research cures for childhood diabetes, but if you own a dog grooming business, this kind of program isn’t really an ideal match. You know your customers care about animals, so they’d be more inclined to support programs that work with rescue dogs or train seeing eye dogs.
Narrow your focus. If your customers are from the local community, you’ll also want to pick an organization that’s locally based. On the other hand, if you have an ecommerce business with customers all over the country, you could pick a national organization to support.
Get employees on board. Involve your employees in all stages of the process, including asking them for ideas about causes to support. They may be part of organizations that would make sense for your business to work with.
Check it out. It’s important to investigate the background of any group you’re working with. Sadly, lots of scams are out there that appear legitimate. Even if an organization is legitimate, you’ll want to know how much of the money they collect goes to their clients as opposed to being used for overhead. CharityNavigator is a good source for getting the low-down on any organization you are thinking of working with. If it’s a local organization, you can ask around in the community or on social media.
Choose a way to help. Your employees should help you figure this out. They may want to volunteer for the organization, or you might just want to donate funds. You could also consider having special events where part of your sales on that day go to the organization, or giving the organization your net profits from the sale of a certain product. The amount of time you have to spare vs. the amount of money you have to spare will be key to this decision.
Publicize it. Let your customers and the community know that you’re involved with this organization by spotlighting it in your marketing materials and on your website, in social media and in signage in your store. Show customers how they can get involved and help too, whether by purchasing a product that supports the cause, donating money or shopping on a certain day. Let local media know about it, too, by publicizing the start of the relationship and the ongoing milestones you reach along the way.
Image by Flickr user Rotary Club of Nagpur (Creative Commons)Google+