Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, plan to donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares during their lifetime. The couple’s charitable gift is a sizable one not easily matched by many, but it brings to the forefront how businesses of all sizes have the power to make a difference.
“Small-business owners do not need to give 99 percent of their revenue like Zuckerberg to make an impact on humanity,” says Allison Maslan, CEO of Allison Maslan International and author of, Blast Off! The Surefire Success Plan to Launch Your Dreams into Reality. “We may not be able to give as much as Zuckerberg, but every bit counts.”
Charitable giving by small business is often the primary revenue of many local and even national-based charities, reports Kaitlin Hayes Reimann, co-founder of uBack, an app that makes donating to nonprofit organizations more accessible. “A small business may not be able to give millions, but it doesn't take that much to make an impact. We're working with several charities right now that are trying to fill gaps of $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000. These amounts, though small in comparison, have significant impact on these charities and the communities they serve.”
Benefits to Charitable Donations
When deciding if your business can donate to charities this season, it pays to consider the many benefits to giving.
“In addition to tax benefits, giving back to humanity is the right thing to do,” believes motivational speaker Terrell Fletcher, a former NFL player. “Charitable donations build goodwill in communities. When your business gives to the less fortunate, it makes the statement to your customers that they mean more than mere dollar signs. This shared responsibility builds a bond between business and community that will strengthen your position and build trust in your intentions.”
—Terrell Fletcher, motivational speaker
For small businesses, there are numerous benefits to giving, adds Hayes Reimann. “While the financial benefits are clear and tangible, it is the intangible, positive outcomes that motivate a small-business owner to support the local community, and this includes increased employee morale. Employees are happier and more positively engaged with their employers when they support charities they care about. There's also a real sense of community that develops when a small business is tied to charitable giving. It creates engagement beyond the corporate walls.”
Giving back is not only smiled upon, it can greatly improve the bottom line, notes Maslan. “We live in a time of conscious capitalism,” she says. “By attracting loyal customers who believe in the same mission, small-business owners can quickly build a following. When supporting the community, they look like angels in the eyes of their customers, who want to buy from a business that shares their high values. Supporting a cause that aligns with the spirit of your business not only helps the charity, it creates abundance for your business as well.”
Charitable Giving Ideas
A little brainstorming can help produce myriad ways to donate. In addition to volunteering time alongside your employees to help local charities, consider hosting a clothing or food drive at your office. Look around your own company for those in need, suggests Hayes Reimann.
“We know of one small business that learned of an employee who was sleeping in her car, so they got her an apartment,” she says. “Another was walking five miles to work without transportation. They created a daily driver schedule to help him get to work.”
Cross-promotion between your small business and a nonprofit can also work really well, as it has between the nonprofit animal rescue organization, Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats, and the pet lifestyle boutique, Pussy & Pooch.
“This year, Kitty Bungalow has had a presence at Pussy & Pooch, including a kick-off of an interactive game that teaches the importance of spaying and neutering cats while raising funds for the shelter and encouraging sales in the store,” says Shawn Simons of Kitty Bungalow. “If you are a small business, find a local nonprofit working in a cause you care about or that connects to your business and create a donation program that will boost both audiences.”
Look for a symbiotic partnership that fits, advises Janene Zakrajsek, owner of Pussy & Pooch. “It's always possible to give, even if it's volunteered time or cross-promotion in creative ways. In our niche, it’s especially easy to work with animal welfare groups in a win-win, synergistic way, because we connect the dots between animal lovers in the community. We think of charitable donations as a local marketing expense rather than a write-off, because the goal is to increase reach. At the same time, giving feels good and is the right thing to do.”
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A version of this article was originally published on December 10, 2015.