Once your company has achieved financial success, you may find yourself in a position to give back to your community. By donating time or money to a good cause, you’ll not only become a more socially responsible company, but you’ll also feel more fulfilled as a business owner and potentially strengthen the loyalty your clients feel for your organization.
Before you make any kind of charitable donation, it’s important to ensure you’re choosing the right recipient. To help, we spoke with 10 members of Young Entrepreneur Council about what leaders should look for or be wary of when deciding where to donate. Read on for their tips on identifying the best organizations or causes to support.
1. Spend a day volunteering first.
Get on the ground and volunteer. I support several youth charities, and besides doing research online, the best way to know is to volunteer your time. You’ll be able to meet staff and other volunteers and engage with the end cause (i.e., the people, nature, animals or whatever cause you’re trying to support). When the organization is doing something right, you’ll know in your heart. It may sound like a cliché, but if you’re investing time and money into a cause you’re passionate about, you should be moved by the work being done. For example, I’ve had youth randomly come up and thank me while fundraising and share their personal stories. I’ve had volunteers share accounts of lives being impacted. It will look different every time, but when you’re there you’ll have a good idea. – Ryan Meghdies, Tastic Marketing Inc.
2. Support causes your employees are emotionally engaged in.
Why wait until your company experiences success to give back? Don’t wait. Waiting to give back until your company is “big enough” is like waiting to teach your child to be kind until they are old enough. It’s never too early or too late to contribute to a good cause. The most compelling philanthropic efforts occur when employees are emotionally engaged—when they have dedicated their time and have invested their financial resources. Matching employee gifts with company money provides a great incentive for employees to be generous alongside their employers. Volunteering is especially meaningful when structuring employee engagement opportunities that align with your company’s values. Social responsibility starts at the top—not only will you create a better world, but you’ll also show staff that you care. – Carrie Rich, The Global Good Fund
3. Choose something relevant to your brand identity.
10up supports causes relevant to our identity and our place in the world. As a digital agency, we donate to organizations that support communities that are underrepresented in the high-tech, digital and software engineering fields—especially those providing education, training and mentorship. We also give back to the open ecosystem that paved the way for creatives like myself and agencies like 10up to build a business out of the internet. We donate 4,000-plus company hours annually to open-source projects and tools, have built and released 57 free WordPress plugins and tools, and share code in nearly 100 repositories on GitHub. By focusing on social good that’s tightly linked to our business, we make it more meaningful and inspiring for our talent—we even get the side benefit of building our brand in the process. – Jake Goldman, 10up Inc.
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4. Look for alignment between your business and the organization.
Do good, but also do well with an organization/cause that matches your business. Don’t do it for the sake of it (that’s unsustainable) or purely for publicity (i.e., “greenwashing”). You simultaneously want to genuinely help, be profitable and make the contribution lasting. Any organization or cause you may target needs to think similarly. Simply planting trees may not actually help the environment as much as one would assume, but it can generate a lot of public support, and through this reach bring about cascading movements that last. Instead of simply pumping money into short-term solutions, build an infrastructure that in turn does well—it could be sustainable energy, building schools, research cooperation and so forth. – Joey Bertschler, uniworld.io
5. Ask other entrepreneurs what causes they support.
It’s always good to donate to causes that you care about or that align with what your business does. It’s also important to get recommendations from other entrepreneurs who might have trusted organizations that they’ve donated to in the past. One of the biggest things to be wary of regarding charities is that a lot of people or organizations use them as a front for a really (personally) profitable business. With 501(c)(3) protection, you’re tax-exempt, and most people don’t really look into how the money is spent. You’ll find that in a lot of “charitable” organizations only a small percentage of funds donated actually goes to the cause—so where does the rest of it go? It goes to executive salaries and “operations.” – Andy Karuza, LitPic
6. Choose a cause that’s personal to you and your team.
When it comes to charity, many leaders don’t engage in as much deep thought as they do when it comes to their businesses. Charity isn’t just an opportunity to throw money around for quick PR. It isn’t about finding good nonprofit organizations either. At the end of the day, a project you’re emotionally attached to will fare much better than one you do halfheartedly. Choose a cause that’s personal to the business leader and company staff. When you start with this, you set yourself up for success because you’ll do more to see your charity projects actually work. Many charity projects aren’t effective for many reasons, but a major one is the donor’s lack of interest. – Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS – Integrated Marketing Solutions
7. Leverage your strengths.
You can do your best for causes and your community by leveraging your strengths. One of the primary resources that many people lack is the right network to leverage. By sharing your knowledge and contributing to an area of your expertise you can help give people a leg up in a way that really matters. Be careful about contributing to an organization if you don’t know the people behind it. Try to find connections you’re familiar with to make sure you’re working with a legitimate charitable organization. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
8. Be sure to research the charity carefully.
Before you open your wallet and start donating money to a charity, do a little bit of research so that your money is spent wisely. And don’t let any individual/organization rush you into making a donation; that’s something scammers do. There are multiple websites that research charities’ transparency, commitment and accountability. Researching on these sites will give you an idea of how a charity uses donations—some charities only spend 70% of the funds on the cause and use the rest for marketing, events and overheads. Then create a budget for your contribution and understand the tax benefits (deductions) from the donations. Once you’ve done your due diligence and shortlisted the charities that meet your expectations, trust the charity to determine how to best spend your contribution. – Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz
9. Be careful not to spread your efforts too thinly.
It is easy to get carried away with trying to support hundreds of amazing causes. This can sometimes limit your ability to give back to each individual organization at scale. As a result, it is important to be mindful of spreading your efforts too thinly. Instead, focus your charitable energy on a select number of core causes. Look for organizations that match what you and your business are passionate about. For example, at Fattmerchant we align with local and national causes related to diversity and women’s empowerment, from LQBTQ+ initiatives to Girls Who Code. By rallying around core initiatives that align with your team values and mission you can create more meaningful and impactful change. – Suneera Madhani, Fattmerchant
10. Start close to home.
Have you considered supporting a local organization right in your city? Sometimes we overlook the people and charities that need attention right in our own backyards, so it’s important to be aware of what your local community needs. Research organizations in your area to see which ones align with your company values and fit the criteria for a charity you can support. – Jared Atchison, WPForms