It’s that time of year. Requests are pouring in to my company to sponsor golf outings, make charitable donations, buy gala tickets and attend award luncheons. I don’t know about other business owners but it seems like I could be at an event every day. I also notice that I keep running into the same people at these events. It made me stop and think. If you own a business you are a target because everyone assumes that you have the means to help. These requests for support are generally from very worthy organizations but you simply can’t support all of them. The truth is that you need to go beyond your desire to “do good” and also access if this is really beneficial to your business. Here are some of the things that I think you should consider.

First, is this a cause that you really believe in? One that is near and dear to your heart? Is it an organization that you have some “history” with that goes beyond just a one-time event? Does the organization deliver the results it promises? And most of all, does the organization’s mission and vision align with your company’s goals and objectives?

Second, is the organization a good steward of the donations? How much of your contribution will go to directly help those that the organization serves? Some organizations put on great events but the amount of income they generate is laughable. Ask questions about the fundraising goal for the event and the likelihood that it will be met.

Third, if you sponsor an event how much visibility will it give your business? A mention in the program may or may not be worth it. If sponsors are highly visible on plasma screens throughout the event you are more likely to be seen. Will business be mentioned from the podium or be given the opportunity to introduce a speaker, participate in a panel? Will the non-profit promote your business as a sponsor on their website beyond the event? Even more important, are the attendees a good target audience for your business?

Finally, is this really a good use of your cash? It may be a better idea to personally buy tickets to an event rather than use company cash. You might also consider an in-kind donation of products or services.

Large companies are very good at handling charitable contributions. They pick areas of interest that complement their organization’s strategy- such as education, cancer research or youth programs. They look at all contributions through the lens of these areas of interest. They also have a very well-defined process and individuals that are charged with making decisions about giving.

For smaller businesses it is often a different story. Usually it is the owner that makes the decision and it is easy to get caught in a reactive mode when bombarded by great causes. I recommend that you have a strategy for charitable giving. You can even include employees in the decision making. Decide how much you will allocate to charitable giving for the year. Choose which organizations are a good fit for your business. Decide whether you will sponsor or buy tickets. Having a strategy will make it easier to say no when the request is not a good fit and help you better support the causes that make sense for your business. Ultimately, the best lens to look at Charitable Giving is how will this donation help drive my business beyond just doing good.


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