I was reading an article in Business Week Small Biz about small companies creating philanthropic efforts. The article discussed how to get into the game, talked about a lot of considerations for small companies and offered ideas on how to go about creating a philanthropy program.
I’m all for giving back, but the article needed to address a few things that are critical for any small company to consider before jumping in.
- Creating a clear objective – Too many small companies aren’t clear about what they want to get out of a philanthropic effort. Is it to gain awareness through PR? Is it to increase business? Is it to feel good? Or is it all three? Or something else. Setting a clear objective from the onset will help define what your company’s philanthropic effort should be. Too many small companies believe there’s a PR benefit to philanthropic efforts but you usually have to spend far more money than you can afford in order to achieve that benefit.
- Tax implications – cash is king and cash gets the write off. Not so for in-kind donations. Check with your tax professional who can more clearly advise you about how to maximize your philanthropic efforts based on your business type, the type of donations you’re making and the state you live in.
- Affordability – so many companies I’ve worked for want to have a philanthropic effort, yet can’t afford it to the level they need to in order to achieve their objective. It’s alright to give back just because you want to. Just make sure that you’re clear that that is indeed your objective.
- Don’t make it mandatory – too often small business owners want their entire team on board with the philanthropic effort. If your pet project is to save the dung beetle, you may find an uphill battle with employees. You have to help employees understand why it may be important to them as well. And you may have to be willing to give in order to get. In this tough economy, if you’re asking employees to donate a day of their time, you may want to give them a day of vacation in exchange.
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
Philanthropy makes good cents.
No matter what your ratinoale for creating a philanthropic effort, as long as you’re clear about why you want to do it will help drive the success of your initiative.
Write a company philanthropic statement.
Solicit employee input.
Make it a whole team effort, not one that is just driven by you.
There are a number of ways your company can benefit by creating such a program. Like anything else you do, planning and execution are the keys to your philanthropic success.