How to incorporate charity into your business model

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If you run your own business, the chances are that you like to think of yourself as an active person who contributes to the local community. What better way to do so than through charity? It’s not just for big corporations and wealthy executives – more and more small and medium-sized businesses are getting involved in philanthropy as a way of giving something back. Why not yours?

Why support a charity?

There are lots of reasons to get involved in business-based charitable giving. Beyond the obvious appeal of being able to help others, it gets money moving in the local economy, strengthens your customer base, boosts your reputation and generates good publicity.

At the most basic level, it helps with name recognition and brand building, and can help you make useful connections. You can also learn new skills and gain perspectives that strengthen your business.

Finding the right charity

When you’re choosing a charity you’ll need to think carefully about the kind of activity you want to support and how you want to do so. Will it relate to what you do as a business, to a personal concern of yours, or to the image you want to create for your business? Will it be connected with your local area or with an issue of national or international importance? Bear in mind that not all charities are universally popular, and think about what your customers are likely to respect.

The Penny Appeal is a charity whose aim is to bring fresh water to people in need around the world. It’s currently working in Syria to bring relief to those affected by the war, and in Haiti to help victims of Hurricane Matthew. You can help by collecting your customers’ small change, making giving easy. You can learn more on the Penny Appeal Facebook page.

Mind is a charity dedicated to providing advice and support for people in the UK who have mental health problems. It organises support groups, provides supported housing and assists people who are learning how to manage their difficulties so they can live independently. You can help by making simple donations or by sponsoring one of its projects or events.

Building in charity support

If you want to support a charity on an ongoing basis, think about ways you can make that support a part of what your business does. These might include:

  • Tax deductions: When your business gives to charity, you can be eligible for tax deductions. The regulations around this are complex so talk to your accountant about your option – they can enable you to donate a significant amount without much impact on your profit margin.
  • Gifts: One off gifts can be great for positive publicity but regular ones are often easier to organise and still make a great impression. Consider donating at Christmas or on another regular special occasion, and invite customers or trading partners to contribute.
  • Sponsorship: Sponsoring charities helps them to take on big projects that might otherwise be out of reach. Whether it’s for fundraising events or direct ways of making a difference, being able to take risks helps charities, like businesses, achieve much more.
  • Partnership: A longer term alternative to sponsorship, partnering with a charity can do a lot to help with your brand building and reputation, whilst giving the charity the security it needs to expand its activities – as well as the chance to draw on your expertise.
  • Networking: Most charities need to work with several businesses in order to get what they need. You can help by introducing them to your business contacts, and they may also be able to help you connect with useful new people.
  • Volunteering: Charities are often set up by people with little in the way of business skill, so they can often benefit from practical, hands-on help. Consider lending them key members of staff for an hour a week to help them improve their skills or to directly solve their problems.
  • Engaging customers: Simply promoting a charity on your premises can do a lot to help it prosper, especially if you also collect donations or let customers know about fundraising events which they too can get involved with.

Running a business is often draining and can sometimes make you feel very isolated, when you’re focused on work all the time and have little opportunity to engage with others. Working with a charity can help you to recover your enthusiasm, and can make you feel, once again, that what you are doing really matters.

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