‘Tis the season. I know this because my pine scented candle is lit, my tacky flashing twinkle lights are out front, and I also ate an extraordinary amount of seasonal “goodies” today that I justified because who doesn’t need a little extra layer during the winter months? I’m not talking about a jacket–nothing is as good at insulating as a hefty cookie induced muffin top. Sorry, I’m not sorry that I watched Miracle on 34th Street for the 300th time, cried, and ate snicker doodles until I wasn’t sure if I had eaten 7 or 25.
Now, maybe this season for you is represented by some other really cool symbol or maybe this season isn’t really applicable to you in any way. No matter what your choice of celebration may be, something about these twinkle lights and obnoxiously scented department stores reaches your heart in a good way. People are nicer (mostly), and everyone is all of a sudden on board with this whole santa”let’s be awesome people and, like, give away all the goods and services we have.” Not saying that people suck the rest of the year, I’m just pointing out that at summer’s peak when everyone is drowning in their own personal pools of sweat, you don’t often hear phrases of “this humidity reminds me of how much I’d like to sacrifice some of my life for others.” It’s more like “as my hair absorbs all of this humidity and looks as big as a bird’s nest, I wonder how I will ever woo a man.” (Applicable to mostly the ladies.) So, here we are, the weather is crisp, and hair is the perfect balance of volume and shine, and we are all collectively trying to give back. Businesses especially are on that lookout. I say especially, because businesses are made up of people so as per my original description of individuals trying to give back, it in turn also encompasses businesses. Because what is a business without the individuals that make it up? Alright, I’m done.
All this lead up is to point out some important “pro” tips for charity giving for your business.
Find your match made in charitable heaven. First off, start with charities that you’ve heard of, have experience with, know about. That should give you a good jumping off point. Also, asking your friends what charities they support or are interested in should help you out quite a bit.
Ah, the internet, what a beautiful tool. Before settling on your charity of choice, GOOGLE IT. Or Bing it. Or Yahoo! it, well, don’t do that because who uses Yahoo! search anyways? Honestly though, take some time to find out about your charity. Not just on their website, look elsewhere. I ended up finding out that some of my most favorite charities are ones where the CEO is making bank and the actual piece they are fundraising for is getting zilch. So, look it up. Spend some solid time, and try searching your charity’s name with “complaints” or “scam” (thanks Federal Trade Commission for the tip). Your goal is to find out their expenses and all their money hoopla. Given the amount of information available to us–you should be able to do this fairly quickly with accuracy.
Tax dollars. As a business this is a fair question–is it tax deductible? There are a couple ways to find out this information, the most obvious being: ask the charity. Before you give them money, ask them the question–they’ll tell you. Or, if after your many years in the business life you still feel uncomfortable with asking questions like that (come on, man or wo-man, you got to start to learn to ask the tough questions, put on your big kid pants), use this wonderful resource: http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check. I know, you’re welcome.
Ask the important questions. You’re already on the phone bonding, talking about life, why not ask them where they are planning on sending your money? I pinky swear they will tell you.
Ah, the do-gooders with their hands on experiences. A lot of times the best way to give back is to just walk out of your house and sign up for something. Get some business t-shirts, run a charitable 5K! (We like to do that, we’re runners around here. Okay, well, the boss is a runner, I am a runner-supporter.) This may be your favorite way to spend your time and money. Trust me on this one.
These are some tips you should keep in your back pocket, but seriously, the main point of this is giving back. Why should you choose a solid charity? Because the better the organization you give to, the more people it helps. Why should you help out in your community? Because it is life-changing, not just for the people you are helping, but for yourself. This is the season to give a little something extra, and it is so worth it.