Great Ideas for your Small Business: Give to Charity
Even if you can’t write a big check, as a business owner you can raise your community pro- file by making personal contributions of goods or services to your favorite charities. In addition to benefiting others, your contribution might also help your business when it comes to customer and employee relationships.
“Our favorite cause is The Valerie Fund, an organization that manages treatment centers for children with cancer and blood disorders,” says Ira Almeas with Impact Incentives and Meetings Inc. in East Hanover, New Jersey. Founded in 1976 in memory of Valerie Goldstein, The Valerie Fund offers support groups, a day school, and a free summer camp for children with cancer and blood disorders.
“The old adage that it’s better to give than to receive is never more true than during the holiday season. We go one step further by acknowledging gifts with holiday greeting cards that benefit other nonprofit organizations,” says Almeas. “Three years ago, one of our clients called me after receiving our holiday charity card. In tears, she informed me that her three-year-old is a cancer patient at one of the benefited clinics.”
Becoming involved in charitable or community works can raise your profile in the business community. In my home- town, Pelham, New York, one of the top real estate brokers, Sona Davidian, a principal owner of McClellan Real Estate, is a true community leader. She serves on the board of several community organizations and last year chaired the major fundraiser—the Pelham House Tour—for the high school PTA. The tour, which costs $25 per ticket, raised more than $25,000 for the high school in one afternoon. Davidian said that her community work always puts her in touch with new clients. Being mentioned in the local paper every few weeks when she does something for the community attracts even more business.
If you can’t volunteer your time during the busy start-up phase of your business, you can still make a contribution to one or two local community associations or buy a raffle ticket for the local fundraiser. “A person with a growing business may have no time, energy, or money to give,” says Jay Goltz, CEO of Artists’ Framing Service in Chicago. “If your company is on shaky ground, your first responsibility is to the company,” adds Goltz, who is also an active mentor and volunteer in his community.
Although he’s turned down invitations to sit on nonprofit boards because, “they want money and friends with money,” Goltz serves on the board of the American Cancer Society. He volunteers and often donates in-kind services from his company—like frames for a photo exhibit the charity produced. When he donates the frames to charitable causes, he receives credit in the program and frequently, another credit on each piece he frames. He said he has landed thousands of dollars’ worth of new business by donating a few hundred dollars’ worth of frames and labor.
If money is tight, entrepreneurs should consider volunteering their time to aid good causes. Shelley Seale, presient of RPS, a relocation business in Cedar Hill, Texas, has always been an active volunteer and continued to give her time when she went into business for herself.
“Time is just as or more valuable than money,” said Seale, who runs a program called Girls Who Dare, which intro- duces girls to the concept of business ownership during meetings held once a week over an eight-week period.
Seale’s company also started the Making a Difference Fund in 1996, which donates 10 percent of her company’s profits to charity. Her employees, who can adjust their schedule to volunteer and are encouraged to do volunteer work on company time, also decide which charities will receive funds. A happy result of her philanthropy has been the hiring of two top employees who applied for jobs after learning about her company’s commitment to charitable work.
Here are some simple ways to get involved
- Read the local community newspaper to learn about what’s going on.
- Choose a group that fits with your personal interests. If you like sports, support the local soccer league or high school football teams.
- Join the chamber of commerce to get acquainted with other business owners in your town.
- If you can’t serve on a board or devote a lot of time to working with a group, sign up to work on a specific project.
- If you have a big conference room, consider providing the space for a community group to meet in your office after hours.
Doing good work can attract good workers to your business, raise your profile in the community, and make you feel good about yourself. Entrepreneurs often forget how important they are to the community, their employees, and their families. They rarely receive the credit they deserve for pro- viding jobs, goods, services, and a future for many young employees.