8 Ways to Make an Impact through Charitable Giving

A little bit of giving can go a long way — for the needy and for your small business.
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There's a lot a small business owner can do to help the community. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

It’s the season for giving — not only to loved ones and loyal customers, but also to the less fortunate. And when it comes to philanthropy, small businesses are our nation’s unsung heroes. According to figures from professional services firm Ernst & Young, family-run companies account for 55 percent of all charitable donations in the United States.

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“Have a staffer, or yourself, serve on a local charity board or event-planning committee.” -Andrew Faas (Photo: Andrew Faas)

Why not join this army of do-gooders?

Donating money to a worthy cause is the most straightforward way to be charitable. You might even get a nice tax deduction. But you don’t have to write a fat check to help out your community and country. There are plenty of others ways to give back, many of which have side benefits for your business.

NCR Silver asked experts for some popular strategies. Here’s what they said.

Sign up your entire staff for a volunteer project, suggested Mary Nicoletti, director of The Initiative for Family Business and Entrepreneurship at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “Spend an afternoon together working at a food bank or another charity,” she advised. “You’ll be a big help to them, and it will also be a great bonding experience for your team.”

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Trying signing up your entire staff for a volunteer project, says Mary Nicoletti, director of The Initiative for Family Business and Entrepreneurship at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. (Photo: Mary Nicoletti)

Sponsor employees for a charitable run or walk. Let your workers know you’re willing to back them with a donation and maybe even athletic gear. (If the gear is branded with your company logo, you’ll get your name out there, too.)

Collect for a worthy cause. Find out what items a local charity needs for its clients, such as canned goods or warm coats. Set out a collection bin for both customers and staffers to use, and deliver the donations to the charity on an agreed-upon date. “Some companies have employees donate turkeys, then deliver them to a feeding center for Thanksgiving,” said Nicoletti.

Invite customers to round up their bill for charity. Promise that all proceeds will go toward a predetermined cause, and pledge to match all donations up to a certain amount.

Offer to share some of your expertise, recommended Andrew Faas, founder of The Faas Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy workplace psychology. “Have a staffer, or yourself, serve on a local charity board or event-planning committee,” Faas said. Your contacts, business savvy and knowledge of the community are certain to come in handy, and you may be able to offer unique perspectives and solutions.

Have a special day or days when you donate part or all your profits to a charity. Studies show that 75 percent of small businesses give at least part of what they earn to worthy causes. Try it yourself, at least for a limited time. Announce the event in advance through local advertisements, tweets, emails and Facebook posts. “Customers enjoy the chance of teaming up with you — it makes them feel good too,” said Nicoletti. See if other local businesses might be willing to participate in the event as well, she added. You may drive more foot traffic, “and it’s a wonderful way to build relationships with them — it’s much more natural than formal networking.”

Fulfill needy families’ wishes. Coordinate with a charity such as The Salvation Army to receive wish lists from underprivileged children and others right in your local area. Hang these in a gathering area in your workplace, such as the break room, and invite staffers to “adopt” a family and buy the items on their list. Collect all donations in a central, secure area, then drop them off or have them picked up by the charity shortly before the holidays.

Give free services to the needy on a special day. “My father, a barber, used to pay house calls to poor families and cut their children’s hair for them,” Faas said. You can make your own workplace the center of the activity, partnering with a local charity to bring in their needy clients. Nicoletti noted, “I have also seen businesses offer a free meal or Thanksgiving dinner on their premises during the holiday season.”

Of course, charitable giving isn’t just for the holidays. Said Nicoletti, “It’s a way for small businesses to truly live out their core values and nurture their legacy.”

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