Are you like me and have always dreamed of having a job and making the world a better place for you and your kids at the same time? I mean, maybe you even started your own business for that reason? That’s your why! In this case, we can have it all, and we can do it by finding ways to build the world we want while building our business.
Working with charities is my passion. And I’ve had the privilege of working with dozens of them professionally and as a volunteer in the past 20 or so years. That’s why I started BridgeRaise to help fundraisers build great partnerships between their charities and companies. Along the way, I’ve seen some incredible examples of giving back at organizations large and small. With this in mind, I’m happy to share some ideas on how you can fuel your passion for giving back in a way that fits with your business, even if you are just starting out.
There are fantastic Mom-lead businesses that have the “give back” fully baked into their business model. They are powerful for many reasons with a biggie being high alignment between their business and the charity they support. Simply put, that means a charity’s mission or programs is a real fit with what your business does or sells.
One of my absolute favorites is Good Food for Good (@goodfoodforgood). When Richa was building her business, before she was making any kind of money, she planned to give back on a per unit cost to Food Banks Canada. Good food and helping others access food – nice alignment, and a great story!
There is also Mamas & Co. member, Julie Mateer LaJeune, whose business Wish and Give encourages people to give to Canadian charities through invitations to parties and events. How smart is that?!
These are truly awesome and embrace giving back in the most fulsome way.
Even if your business doesn’t fit with this all-in approach you can still make sure your giving strategy makes sense. How?
Find a charity that aligns with your business and your story. That’s it!
This may come to you super easily if your life has been recently touched by a charity because of an illness in your family, a life event or because of a passion area. Let’s say there isn’t a charity that just jumps out at you. My friend, and fellow fundraiser Cindy Wagman at The Good Partnership always says "as a small business a nice alignment is partnering with a small charity." I couldn’t agree more! And as a mom, maybe it could be one that helps women or kids, or other entrepreneurs?
Once you’ve picked your charity, then it’s time to figure out what you are going to do.
First, you need to figure out how much and how often you are going to give. You need to decide if a particular customer action will lead to the donation. Will your support be annual, based on a certain percentage of sales, or a number of units, or is it a discretionary amount? Is it sponsoring a certain event? Deciding how you are going to give is important, and ideally the closer the connection between the customer and the financial support the better. This decision will also determine whether it is a donation and receives a charitable receipt or if it is sponsorship and is a marketing expenditure. Either way, you are supporting your charity of choice, and that’s what’s important, no need to make it too complicated. Be transparent and authentic and you’re all good!
I’m a fundraiser through and through, so my recommendation of the best way to give back is through financial support. And in a lot of ways, this is the easiest if you are time starved like me. With BridgeRaise, I decided to make a few annual gifts of discretionary amounts at holiday time. I partially did this because it was fun! I also like to share the stories of why I picked the specific charities. My blog about my gift choices also shared more about me with my community.
It’s not all about the money though. If the finances just don’t work at this stage, that’s ok. There are other ways to include giving back into your small business.
At big companies, it’s called Employee Volunteerism, and they have policies and social media campaigns and there is a very strong business case for it. Don’t worry, I’m not thinking you should have a big production. You know what though, you can give yourself, and anyone on your team, a day a month, or a couple of times a year to go volunteer somewhere that makes your heart sing!
Get out there and sort food, read to a senior, be a mentor to a young woman, there are so many ways that you can volunteer and make it a part of your “corporate culture.”
And you know what, best practice in giving back includes making sure you are doing more than giving money, so working volunteering into your strategy puts you right alongside the Corporate Social Responsibility leaders. And, if you choose to do so with a charity that really aligns with what you do opportunities may arise!
Finally, being a leader at giving back, even while you are getting started, includes an advocacy piece. You can do this by telling your story.
Don’t stop at time and money, also share your message. Picking something you care about means there is a change you want to see in the world. Share the story of why this charity matters! It’s a great way to raise the visibility of the organization or cause and your business’ involvement with it. It makes your give back program more authentic and that’s just as important as the size of the gift.
If there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s that you and your small and growing business can make a difference for charities. Take a simple step - by finding a cause that matters to you and aligns with your brand, and reach out. My guess is they’ll have ideas for how you can help. And just like that, you’ve taken your first step towards setting your business’ charitable giving plan.
You’ve got this!
Heather Nelson is President and Lead Consultant at BridgeRaise, a corporate fundraising consultancy that helps charities raise more money from companies. Heather loves cheerleading fundraisers on, cuddling her puppy and dreaming about her next vacation. Heather is the mom of an 11-year-old boy who loves sports, so juggling arenas, courts, and fields is a thing. If you want to help build a corporate fundraising program at your charity, Heather shares lots of free resources through her blog. If you have a question about how to include a give back into your small business, drop her a note [email protected].