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ROBERTSON: Just Business: How to give back when money is tight

Whether your business is large or small, you need to be a part of the community. It is no secret that many great things can be accomplished when people work together to help others, whether by donating time, money or products. A side benefit to helping the community is that you are growing and supporting your company’s positive image as well as employee morale.

Outside of office hours, you and your employees may already be helping others by coaching a baseball team, organizing a food drive or serving on a charity’s advisory board. These are all wonderful volunteer efforts, but as a company, how can you give back to the community?

Money may be tight. There are already obligations and fixed costs such as payroll, utilities and rent. After that, you still have to set aside funds for advertising and marketing your business. How is there anything left for charity?

It can be easy to justify not getting involved if you are not a large corporation such as Home Depot or Gulfstream. But, as a business owner, you live and work here. At the same time, you can’t afford to say “yes” to every charitable request and yet, you may find it difficult to say “no” because you don’t want to let anyone down or be uncharitable.

Keep this in mind: Even big companies have to say “no” sometimes. How do they do that? For starters, they have a plan, a policy and a budget — three things a business absolutely needs.

If you do not have them already, establish a charitable giving plan, policy and budget. Going forward, there are several things to consider, but here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. As you prepare a budget, determine what you can afford to give in monetary donations. Consult your accountant to determine whether certain donations are tax deductible.

2. In developing your charitable giving plan, consider whether donating product or services work for your organization. As with monetary donations, you should consult your accountant for tax advice on such donations.

3. Consider focus areas and/or certain charities when creating your plan. Look at your business. Are there causes that are obviously connected to your company? For example, if your client base is largely military, find a worthwhile charity for soldiers and veterans.

4. See where your employees are volunteering. Do a number of employees volunteer at the same organization or for a similar cause?

5. Consider donating expertise. As the saying goes, “time is money,” so you may be able to help an organization by donating service hours and/or expertise.

6. Have set criteria for donations. Examples include requiring donation requests to be in writing, verifying non-profit status, considering the nature of the charity, assessing whether employees are already volunteering, assuring whether the level of donation includes your company’s name or logo in advertising and publicity (and to what extent) and more.

7. Establish and adhere to a clear review and approval process. Just as you have a procedure for business expenditures, your company should have a clearly defined process for donation reviews and approval.

These are but a few tips and examples to help you and your business determine how to give back to the community. Consider that when you give back, not only are you helping others but also building awareness about your company and growing employee morale.

 

This column was compiled by Karen Robertson, director of public relations and client development at Robertson & Markowitz Advertising & Public Relations, Inc. She can be reached at karen@robmark.com or 912-921-1040.

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