Earning money is fun, but sometimes it’s nice to give something back to those less fortunate. Christmas is now over, which may lead many to feel less charitable and generous as the festive cheer runs dry and January Blues set in. However, the beginning of the year is in fact the perfect time to start a charity project. Many poorer families around the world have had to scrape through December’s festive period and are now faced with the rest of freezing winter (or scorching summer depending on the hemisphere) with no special occasion to look forward to and get them through the following months. In other words, it’s the time when deprivation hits hardest, and when philanthropy is most needed.
Of course, you don’t have to donate to poverty – you can choose any cause you wish whether that be environmentalism, cures for diseases, animal care or drug rehabilitation. The organization could be related to your business or a personal cause. Either way, it should be something you are passionate about (it pays to do your research first so that you know the demographic that you’re targeting is certain to benefit).
On top of giving you a sense of wellbeing, giving to charity can also reflect well on your business and be an excellent marketing strategy. Clients will feel good about themselves for investing in your company, knowing that some of their money is going to a good cause.
Whatever your purpose for donating may be, you must decide on an appropriate strategy that is sure to have the biggest benefit to you and your chosen cause. There are countless ways to contribute. Here are some of the most popular and effective methods for you to choose from.
Sponsor a charity event
One of the easiest ways to get involved is to sponsor a charity event. This could be something as simple as a sponsoring a friend who is running a marathon for leukaemia, or putting some funding into a local charity run gig. There may be charities that have already approached you for a sponsor. Alternatively, you can browse the web for charity events and handpick one that shouts out to you.
Of course, you can also fund your own charity event such as a fair, a meal or a raffle. Spearheading the project can be a great way of marketing yourself as you aren’t only contributing to a charity event but taking the generous time to organise it.
Start a charity box
Having a charity box in the office is another simple method of raising money for a cause. There are added ways that you can get people to contribute to such as a box such as introducing a swearbox, having employees donate for tea and coffee or raising enough money and awarding staff with a bonus as a result such as an activity day-out or a paid day off.
You can also rely on the generosity of clients and visitors by putting a box in a reception area or waiting room in you have one. Bars and cafes may often have a charity box by the till for customers to put spare change into.
For those who are really committed, there is then the option of taking a charity box onto the streets and asking for donations directly from the public. For many businesses, this can often be too time-consuming but can be very effective.
Microlending or ‘microloaning’ is the process of donating small amounts of profit from each individual sale to charity. This is an idea currently practiced by Mission Belt owner Nate Holzapfel, whose company currently donates one dollar of each of its sales to charity. Some companies will donate a percentage of sales, whilst others will set a sole amount for every sale.
This can be a complex charity method and it is best implemented using a company like Kiva that can calculate it for you. It can however be a great marketing strategy as buyers may be willing to pay greater prices for your product in the knowledge that not all of the profit is going in your pocket, but in fact contributing to charity. Just ensure that you are making enough personal profit to sustain your business.
Create a special charity product
If you’re the type of company that regularly invents knew products and services, why not create a special exclusive product in which all proceeds go to charity. This requires you to be a making certain level of product so that you can fund the materials and is best reserved for low-cost products such as pens, sweets, t-shirts and mugs or a limited edition product in which only a specific amount are produced.
You can alternatively create a special product that relies on microlending. This could allow you to make enough of a profit to fund the materials needs to make that product/deliver that service.
In both cases make a point of advertising that it is a charity product and make this a clear distinction between other products of yours that aren’t supporting a charity.
Donate one of your products or services to a charity auction
Charity-run auctions are popular as people bidding large figures know that their money will not be going directly into the hands of a greedy businessman. For businesses donating the product, it can be a great marketing opportunity. Online charity auctions are amongst some of the most popular forms, including Givergy and eBay for Charity.
Products and services can also be donated to raffles and other organization-run competitions as a gift. Such competitions are always looking for cheap and worthwhile prizes and free donation could be a great help.
As with charity events, you can run your own auction, either online or at an auction house.
Donate your workspace to a charity event
In the evenings when you lock up or at weekends when you’re not around, why not donate your working space to a local volunteer event. This may not be appropriate for some small businesses. However, if you own a hall, garden or large room, this could be the perfect space that a charity event is looking for.
Great businesses for this opportunity include pubs and clubs, hotels, gyms, farms and council buildings.
Advice for setting up a charity idea within your business
It’s important to note that when setting up a charity idea within your business, you will have to follow government legislation. You may be able to claim back tax on any spendings that are for charitable purposes. Spending any money raised from these earnings will not be exempt from tax, so you must make a clear distinction between your own personal spending, business spendings and charity spendings. Many companies will set up a separate account for all charity-related transactions in order to avoid confusion.
If you plan to get your employees involved, make sure that they fully understand the cause and that they are willing to give up hours to volunteer projects. If for any reason your staff and colleagues do not want to get involved, you cannot force them to take part unless it was part of your original contract. It is unlikely colleagues will not get involved in your cause because they do not believe in it unless your cause is in some way controversial such as a religious cause or centered around a polarizing subject such as abortion. Arranging a fundraising event out of hours might be a good enough reason for an employee not to want to take part. Either way you should try to be encouraging by offering some kind of reward, but don’t be too pushy if they really don’t want to contribute.
Remember to use your charity work as a method of marketing as well as supporting your cause. You don’t have to rub your brand in people’s faces at every given moment as this could lead your charity activity to look more like a deceitful publicity stunt than a true act of philanthropy. However, feel free to wear branded t-shirts at fundraising events, to advertise your work on your website and social media and to detail it on the packaging of any product.
Charity work can also be a great networking opportunity. Fellow businesses investing in a similar cause may want to work with you, which could be a good chance to cross-promote. You may also meet other high ranking individuals at fundraising events that could be useful contacts. Feel free to also contact clients and companies you work with such as accountants and cleaning companies about your charity work and see if they will make a donation.