How to Get Your Business Involved in a Charity

Businesses that give time and money to their communities see improvement to their bottom line, as well as happier employees.
OPEN Forum Contributor
April 02, 2012

Being a part of your community means giving back. Businesses that get involved with charities or otherwise give time, money and other resources to their communities reap many benefits. They have employees who are more involved and productive who are willing to stay. Being involved in the community improves brand visibility and facilitates networking.

"It’s a great way to retain and recruit quality personnel," says Pete Parker, managing director at NPcatalyst, a Reno consulting firm that helps business and nonprofit interactions. "If you let me volunteer a couple of hours a month or week and carry the company name, that makes me proud to be a part of the company."

Here are some suggestions for businesses that want to get involved and give back.

Think local

Look around in your town, city or region to see which charities need help. Think about small charities, nonprofits and local chapters of larger organizations.

James Coburn, owner of Harbor Consulting IT Services, has set a goal of donating 20 percent of his company's profits each year. Much of that goes to local organizations.

"It started out with local charities like animal shelters, and now we’re pretty involved with a cancer program," says Coburn. "Always remember where you came from."

Do your research

Before getting involved with a charitable or nonprofit organization, do research to make sure they're reliable, responsible, open and honest. Nonprofit consultants like NPcatalyst can help you filter out the better ones. You can also research organizations through sites like CharityNavigator and GuideStar.

Consider what matters to you

Find nonprofits that speak to you in some way. This might mean choosing nonprofit organizations related in some way to the mission and expertise of your business. Or, choose groups that speak to your own concerns, or the interests of your employees.

“If you’re going to do it and are able to do it, find something that means something to you," emphasizes Coburn.

Give employees free choice

Some businesses give employees the chance to donate time or money to nonprofits. When employees are allowed to choose which charities to contribute to, employee satisfaction with the charitable-giving program is greater. Employees like having a personal investment in the process.

Keep records

Remember to track all charitable projects for tax and other purposes. Record what money and time is given, as well as when, how and to whom the company donates. If you don't have the resources to do this record-keeping in-house, hire an outside firm or consultant to handle this part of charitable giving for you.

Getting help with the administrative side of charitable work and donations will give you and your employees more time to devote to the charitable work itself.

Gang up

When groups of employees get involved in charitable giving, they build teams. Consider giving time for the whole office, or designated teams, to volunteer at a local event or charity. This practice brings more help to the organization and increases the team spirit of your employees.

One of Parker's clients is a bank that encourages groups of seven to 10 people to work on a project together. It might be clearing trails or packaging food at a food bank.

"The benefit there is employee bonding, and there are a lot of benefits that come out of that," says Parker. "And it’s free—you don’t have to pay for a ropes course."

Though small businesses might not think they have the resources to devote to charitable activities, often they have more resources than they realize. It's a matter of setting aside time or money and understanding how getting invovled with a charity can benefit the business's bottom line as well as the community.

Vivian Wagner is a freelance writer in New Concord, Ohio. Vivian blogs for Contently.