Is your business interested in giving back, but doesn’t know where to start? Susan Dobbe-Leahy, of Dobbe Marketing, in Crystal Lake, explains how to make philanthropy a part of your business plan.
Businesses focus on making money by delivering products and services that are both needed and wanted. Your business plan includes fixed costs, variable costs and a reasonable cushion for profit. Once profits are made, giving a little back can be an important part of your plan.
Led by the example of Bill and Melinda Gates, many profitable operations form foundations for philanthropic giving in their community and the world beyond. Your operation may not be positioned to form a 501(c)3 nonprofit, yet it probably can have a philanthropic line item.
Every business gets asked by community members for contributions, donations, or in-kind services. Rather than reacting to the requests your firm receives, be proactive and make philanthropy a part of your business plan. Have a strategic approach to giving that is sustainable and satisfactory.
First, identify what causes you want to support. Children in need, arts and culture, education, entertainment, victims of tragedy, community sustainment programs – the list is very long and the options diverse. Choose what suits you and your company.
Here’s a good example: In 2010, Kimberly-Clark, makers of Huggies brand disposable diapers, aligned itself with the National Diaper Bank Network, a program with roots in McHenry County. Kevin Brown, a Kimberly-Clark vice president, recognized that diapers could be donated to start diaper banks and community members could be encouraged to support the effort to help low-income households satisfy their diaper needs.
Aligning itself with existing food pantries, the National Diaper Bank Network now has 350 diaper banks in the U.S., each funded by grants, donations, community members, and Kimberly-Clark’s support.
Your business many not have the resources of Kimberly-Clark, but as a business owner, you need to find a way to fund your philanthropy regularly. Assign a marketing or community engagement line item in your expense budget. Channel giving based upon a specific amount or percentage of profit for the year. Allow employees to contribute, if they choose.
Next, determine how you want to help through giving. More than writing a check to a charity, can your team provide services? Getting a group of employees together to do good for others can be inspiring and develop team collaboration. It also allows for experiencing each other’s talents with a fresh perspective. Selecting spring and fall cleanup days to help neighborhoods, scheduling student intern days for career planning, or simply stocking shelves at the food pantry – all can create a bond for your staff.
If you don’t have a special passion, ask your team to vote on theirs. Giving and service programs can evolve with the changes in your group dynamics. Be flexible, yet maintain leadership control.
Many small giving programs grow organically. Explore what’s in place in your community. Your company can join others, align with service clubs and build on existing models.
Take time in your annual strategic planning to include the topic of philanthropy. Give your team the opportunity to give back, with the support of your business. Make a difference from the inside out.
Oh, and share your story about philanthropy. Everyone loves to learn why and how you determined to give. ❚
Susan Dobbe-Leahy is president of Dobbe Marketing & PR Inc. Founded in 1989, this brand strategy agency leads businesses, organizations and municipalities to build brand image awareness and communication.