Many local companies already have charitable causes and organizations they support. But if your business doesn’t, now’s a great time of year to start giving back, especially since you might have already started to receive end-of-the-year donation requests from all kinds of nonprofits.
But how do you decide where to give? Start off by thinking about what matters, to both your business and you as an individual. “Make it something you’re really passionate about,” says Jeannine Joy, president and CEO of United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee. “You should give to something you believe in.”
Involve your employees with this—they might already be aware of some great local organizations that could use your help. Pavese Law Firm, for example, frequently supports the United Way, Habitat for Humanity and St. Matthew’s House, nonprofits for which employees serve on boards or donate time in other ways.
“We could write a check to every organization that comes along and asks us,” says Mary Vlasak Snell, a partner at the firm. “But we really feel that we have to have that personal connection to our giving.”
Do your homework to make sure donations go to organizations that will spend them well. Resources such as Charity Navigator and GuideStarby Candid can help you learn about nonprofits, the work they do, and how they allocate their funds. “If you were hiring someone to repair your roof, you’d probably do a lot of research,” says Joy.“That is what you should do when investing in a charity. You want to make sure it’s a good investment and that you get a good return on your investment.”
Your local community foundation also can be a good source of information. The Community Foundation of Collier County, for example, does frequent assessments of community needs and shares that information on its website. “We can tell you what the hot issues are,” says Eileen Connolly-Keesler, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County. “We see it, we know it, so give us a call.”
Connolly-Keesler suggests putting together an employee giving committee to help vet nonprofits and donation requests. “It’s great for morale,” she says. “And it takes that work off of the president of the company or whoever else [might have to decide].”
Don’t feel like you’re too small to make a difference. Start off doing what you can now and let your corporate giving grow as your business does. Smaller companies “can have such a direct impact on their local community,” says Geula Ferguson, director of programs at the Florida Philanthropic Network. “I sit on the board of my daughter’s high school theater program, and without the support we get from super-small local businesses, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
The tax write-offs from corporate giving are great. But donating to local nonprofits also has other benefits, from getting your company’s name out there in a positive way to making the region in which you do business a better place. “Giving to nonprofits builds your community and makes it stronger,” says Joy. “And when your community is stronger, your economy is better.”