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Local Charities to Get Involved In and Why

As a business owner, have you allocated time and money to help a local charity? If so, you’ve probably figured out the many benefits of giving back. It is not just a way to help others. Supporting a cause can enable you to promote your brand, expand your network, and partner with fellow business owners. Yes, charitable efforts are truly a win-win for all involved.

With that in mind, it is important to choose the right charity in which to invest your time, talent, and treasure. Not all are created equal. You will want to carefully narrow down your search before partnering with any organization to ensure success for all involved. Here are some questions to ponder as you conduct your search.

What Are the Types of Charities Available?
There is a very broad range of missions for charities, but they can be divided into six specific types. These types can be further broken down into subgroups. Consider which type appeals to you and whether it could be logically aligned with your business.

Animal Charities
This includes wildlife conservation groups, pet and animal welfare organizations, zoos, and aquariums.

Environmental Charities
These charities focus on preservation, appreciation, and sustainability of the environment. This could be at a very local level with the focus on a park to large-scale, global environmental protection efforts.

International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
NGOs are typically headquartered in one country but work in other countries. They often have local offices that help support efforts, which can include peace and human rights, child protection, international development, and disaster relief.

Health Charities
Health charities can cover everything from supporting a hospital or clinic to promoting public awareness of a specific disease or health risk.

Education Charities
By supporting an education charity, you can help students and the educational institutions and organizations that serve them. This can be as focused as a local PTA group to a large university scholarship program.

Arts and Culture Charities
These charities celebrate local arts and culture. From museums and galleries to art appreciation programs for children and public broadcasting for TV and radio.

What Cause Should We Support?
There can be an infinite number of reasons why you choose a particular charity, but they can be narrowed down into two categories – civic duty and personal desire. There is certainly no harm in choosing a charity for no other reason than you want to help your community. Yet having a specific reason to build a relationship with an organization will result in being more invested in a long-term partnership.

Have you or a close family member been affected by a particular disease? It may be well worth your effort to find local charities that support patients and their families who are currently battling the condition. Are you a parent with a child in a local school that is struggling with budgetary cuts? This might be where you want to direct your efforts. Think about what is important to you and who you want to help.

From a business standpoint, it can also be worthwhile to consider which charity will provide you with exposure to a large number of influential people. Are there opportunities to sit on a board? Can you volunteer? What types of events do they plan each year, and will your target market participate?

What Is Their Mission?
With a short list of possible charities, it’s time to delve a little deeper into their efforts. First, you’ll want to understand each organization’s mission and their core values that support their mission. Do they match up with your business’s culture and spirit of giving? What’s their track record with actually fulfilling the mission? The answers you receive should shed significant light on where you should be placing your time and money.

Is It Legitimate?
Unfortunately, the world of charities and other nonprofits is rife with less-than-honorable organizations that prey on individuals and businesses with sympathetic hearts and deep pockets. While it’s a shame to think you have to vet any organization you’re considering, it is truly a must.

Beyond determining if a charity is honoring its mission, you will also need to check if it’s appropriately allocating resources. As a business considering a partnership, a charity should be open and willing to provide full disclosure when it comes to how any donations will be used (area of greatest need, restricted to a specific program, etc.). In addition, you should be able to see validation of the use of funds.

It’s commonplace to ask a nonprofit how much of their budget is allocated to administrative staff versus programs. However, this may not always be the clearest indicator if an organization is handling funds in a smart way. Instead, much can be learned by asking how they measure results. Ask to see these results. Ideally, they should have published reports that highlight the specifics of what they’re achieving.

How Can We Help?
Of course, a financial donation is usually very much appreciated by any charity. You’ll also probably want to contribute some amount of time by volunteering either as an individual or as a team representing your business. For auctions, raffles, and charity events, there may be additional opportunities to donate items or services that would be of value to their audiences.

How Can I Leverage the Partnership?
First and foremost, the goal should be to give back when it comes to partnering with a charity. However, any good business person will tell you that the best partnerships are those that offer mutual benefits. This means finding ways to maximize the partnership to increase awareness of both the charity and your business. This means strategic public relations and marketing.

When it comes to publicity, you will hopefully want to link your business’s name to the charitable cause you choose. This can be accomplished in several ways.

1.     Send out press releases when you’ve donated goods or services. Make sure to provide relevant photos and/or videos if possible.

2.     Add your partnership with the charity in your marketing materials including your website, newsletters, collateral, and ads.

3.     Ask that the charity includes your business in their publicity efforts, too.

For marketing, there are also many strategies worth considering:

1.     Ask your charity members to sell coupons for your business and to keep a percentage of the amount of the proceeds.

2.     Donate a portion of proceeds of sales for a certain time frame to go to the charity.

3.     Create special event “packages” that can be donated to your charity and used for auctions or other special events.

4.     Launch a targeted niche email marketing campaign that will bring in both new customers and new members to the charity.

What Are the Networking Opportunities?
Certainly one of the biggest of all of the benefits of partnering with a local charity is the ability to rub elbows with like-minded professionals who are also committed to helping others. Attend meetings and events, sit on boards and committees, and urge your employees to participate, as well. New contacts you make via the charity should be added to your existing networking list, and contact with them should be ongoing.

What Else Do I Need to Know before Choosing a Charity?
Taking a closer look at a charity’s records is a very good idea before you make any commitment to them. GuideStar.org is an online source for checking the records of nearly 2 million nonprofits registered with the Internal Revenue Service. Using their free search, you can access an organization’s Form 990, the basic IRS filing document for nonprofits. From this form, you can see some important information including a charity’s income, spending, mission, and executive salaries.

GuideStar doesn’t provide any specific ranking for a charity. For this, it’s worthwhile to check out either the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, which is affiliated with the Council of Better Business Bureaus or Charity Navigator.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance has accountability standards which include governance, oversight, and effectiveness. Those charities that meet the benchmarks for the standards are designated “BBB Accredited.”

Charity Navigator evaluates about 7,000 nonprofits and has a simple interface to find charities based upon your interests and ratings to help you choose one. The site also provides a variety of top ten lists of charities and some great tips for donors.

Final Thoughts
Many health experts have long touted the benefits of donating and volunteering. It can certainly enrich the life of an individual, and it can have profound benefits to a business, too. By connecting with others and giving back in a meaningful way, you will feel better about your position in your community and will ultimately create a positive impression that may result in more customers and more sales.