If you’re like many small businesses, your company may be involved in giving back to the community in some way. Giving back should be something your business does all year long. Keep it going and make it your goal to incorporate giving into your business all year long.
There are many ways you can make giving part of your business. Here are some tips for developing a program that works for you.
- Determine what causes you want to help. This could be a cause that’s personally meaningful to you, but ideally, it’s also one that relates to your business in some way. For instance, maybe breast cancer research is important to you because of a family member’s illness, but if your business sells pet products, it might make more sense to contribute to an organization that helps abandoned or abused animals. By the same token, if your business primarily serves local customers, it makes sense to choose a local charity; if your client base is national, you may want to choose a national organization. The more clearly your cause relates to your business’s mission, the easier it will be to get employees and customers involved.
- Involve employees. Your business will be able to make a greater contribution if you involve your entire staff in giving back. But if you want your employees to truly “buy in” to the mission of giving back, it’s important to give them a voice in choosing the charity or charities you’ll work with. Solicit ideas from your team and see what organizations get them—and you—excited about contributing.
- Investigate the organization. I know you’re eager to get started, but don’t skip this step. Unfortunately, there are shady organizations out there looking to scam people. Even if you know an organization is legitimate, it’s important to find out how much of your contributions will actually go to helping people and how much will go to administrative, marketing and other overhead costs. Visit CharityNavigator  to get the scoop on charities and organizations you’re considering.
- Decide how you will help. There are many ways to contribute to charity–writing a check, volunteering at an organization, sponsoring its events, donating products. You can choose to have a percentage of profits from your sales of a particular product or service, or sales on a particular day, go to that organization. (It’s a good idea to talk to your accountant beforehand to make sure the tax ramifications of your contributions are handled properly.) Again, ask your employees how they want to be involved. If they love the idea of volunteering, then you can put your efforts there. If they’re too time-stressed or have too many outside commitments for volunteering to work, then a financial contribution probably makes more sense.
- Get your customers involved. Let customers know about the charity you’re contributing to. Spotlight your charitable activities on your website, social media and in other marketing materials. Depending on how you choose to contribute, you can get customers involved, too—whether by encouraging them to volunteer with your team on a certain day, letting them know about events you’re sponsoring, or alerting them about the products and services whose sales help out the cause. Customers will feel good about your business when they know you’re helping causes they care about—and they’ll spread the word to other potential prospects as well.
Giving back doesn’t have to be complicated. My company is small, so we keep it simple: My partners and I have each chosen a cause that is close to our heart, and we set aside a certain dollar amount to donate regularly each month. It doesn’t matter how you do it—what matters is that you do it.
What causes do you care about? How does your business contribute to them—and to the community?
Giving Photo  via Shutterstock