How To Choose a Charity That Aligns With Your Corporate Goals
There’s little question that your company should donate to charity — surveys show that two-thirds to three-quarters of customers and employees prefer to do business with companies that give back to the community. Once you’ve decided to start a corporate giving program and figured out how much your business can afford to give to charity, the biggest remaining question is what charity (or charities) you should donate to.
What Charities Should I Donate to as a Corporation?
While there are many different ways to choose causes your business can support — and you’re welcome to contribute to any that resonate with you — there are some basic guidelines that can help you choose charities that will resonate with your employees and your customers. The tips below can help you find the right causes and charities to associate with your brand and values.
1. Look for charities that align with your company’s values
Choose a charity that aligns with your company’s mission and values. The more closely the charity relates to the work your business does, the more likely the connection is to make an impact on your employees and customers. The connection can be very broad — a restaurant may donate a portion of its profits to a local food bank, for example — or much more specific, as in a seafood restaurant supporting a sustainable fisheries initiative.
2. Choose a charity with a personal connection
Choose a charity that has a personal connection for you and make it part of your story. Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, for example, was adopted when he was six weeks old. While Wendy’s donates to many charitable causes, their best known is The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which supports foster care adoption because Thomas believes that “every child deserves a forever home.”
3. Look to your community
Look into charities that are close to home. Donations can be especially impactful to small, local charities that don’t have the same fundraising base as better-known national charities. While national charities can do very big things with the millions of dollars they raise each year, your donation won’t make or break them. It could, however, make a very big difference in the operating budget of a local charity serving a similar purpose in your hometown.
4. Ask your employees
Your employees are experts on their community and its needs. When you give them a voice in choosing the charity or charities your business will support, you are honoring and valuing them as complete, authentic people. By recognizing the causes that are important to them, you are giving them one more reason to love their job.
5. Listen to your customers
You can ask your customers which charities they support directly, either in person or via social media, or you can draw on your knowledge of them to help you choose charities that will resonate with them. REI, the outdoor sports gear brand, for example, focuses on causes that protect and promote access to the outdoors.
6. Let your employees choose their own
Groundswell takes employee choice to the next level. By providing each employee with a personal giving account, you can fully support the causes that are most important to them.
Guidelines for Responsible Corporate Giving
Once you’ve narrowed down a list of charities to consider, you should do some research to ensure that your donations actually go to the cause you want to support. These tips can help you vet charities and organizations before you make a final commitment.
1. Check their website
An organization’s website can tell you a great deal about the organization and its work. Look for clear details about the charity’s programs and how they use their donations. The more transparency they offer, the easier your decision will be. At a minimum, it should include the organization’s address and phone number, as well as stating its nonprofit status.
2. Look the charity up online
There are a number of organizations dedicated to helping people choose charities to support. Their websites will include a rating, as well as specifics such as how much of your donation goes to programming and whether or not they are registered charities. They include:
- Charity Navigator
- Candid (Formerly Guidestar and Foundations.org)
- Charity Watch
- BBB Wise Giving Alliance
Some things to look for when checking out a charity checklist include:
- Administrative/overhead costs: As a general guideline, look for charities that spend less than 25% of donations on administrative, marketing and other overhead costs.
- Financials: Check the organization’s form 990 or other financial reporting for information on their financial health.
- Complaints or actions against them: Look for any regulatory irregularities or complaints that have been made against the charity and what actions, if any, they’ve taken to resolve them.
- Impact: Givewell lists far fewer charities than the others, but it focuses on charities that have a high rate of impactful work. You can also check the organization’s own website and annual report to learn more about the results they’ve seen in their work.
3. Make a site visit
If you’re choosing to support a local charity, schedule an in-person visit to evaluate their work. It will give you an opportunity to meet the organization’s leadership team, and see the way it operates on the ground. This can be especially important if you also choose to support the organization with volunteer hours or in-kind donations.
4. Ask around about reputation
In addition to basic research, take some time to ask trusted friends and acquaintances about their experience and opinions of the charities you’re considering. Again, this can be especially helpful if your possibilities include local organizations. Your personal contacts may have information about the charity’s leadership, board of directors or history that you won’t find elsewhere.
The Bottom Line
The charities you support with your business tell your customers and employees a great deal about how well you put your values into practice. If you do your due diligence, follow your instincts and choose carefully, you’ll have the pleasure of knowing that your donations are benefiting your business, empowering your employees and making an impact on the world. How much more can you ask for? Start your corporate giving program with Groundswell.
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