Rabu, 10 Desember 2008

Incorporating Charity in Your Business Plan

by Emily McCormick and Athelia Woolley

Business trends are common and changing almost as often as fashion. Ideas that make good business sense or 'human' sense will, of course, be around in the long run. Recent trends toward corporate giving, even in small businesses, won't be going out of style anytime soon. The right time to integrate a charitable component in your company is when you're in the planning process; not 10 years in to running your business (although it's never too late!). Here are several factors to consider when thinking about charitable giving:

Reasons for having a charity component in your business

The obvious main reason to incorporate a charitable giving into your business or business plan is that it's good to give back. The 'golden rule' that you grew so accustomed to hearing as a child, applies to business as well. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In this case, if you're in America and starting a business, you are among a privileged group of people. Find a cause that you can help in return.

The second reason to think charitably is more important to your bottom line than "giving back": your customers will love that you're doing something for the greater good and they thereby feel as though they are involved in helping others if they buy your product or service. Having a charitable component can be the reason that a consumer chooses you over another similar product or service offering.

Finally, charitable giving gives back to you each year at tax season.

Choosing your charity

When deciding on what charity to use, make sure to ask the following questions:

1. Is this charity appealing to your customers? (Consider their likes and dislikes, what they do with their free time, what age group they're in.)

2. Is this charity political? (Be careful when considering causes you're interested in. You may be pro life, or anti war, but your consumers may not be.)

3. Is the charity somewhat relevant to the field your in. (If you're a female with a fashion company, you could look for a charity that gives microcredit loans to women in third world countries so they can start their own fashion companies, etc.)

4. Make sure the charity you choose it legitimate. (Spend some time looking into the charity of choice. Find out what percentage of the money they receive goes to the charity and how much is spent on administration.)

Making your charity work for you

Once you've decided on a charity, make things official. You want to be able to have this relationship work for you on every level; from your website, to PR, to events. Your charity should become a part of how you function. Decide how much money you will be donating; whether a flat annual donation or a percentage of your net income. Remember that charities are typically happy to receive the extra money and press, so do not worry if your original amount is small. You can increase donations as you grow.

Exchange marketing materials and information with your charity. Get a copy of their logo and any brochures or informational packages they have created. Make sure to create a section on your website that talks specifically about your charitable partner and how the money your customer spends with you will be helping a greater cause. Give your charity your information and have them put your logo and a link to your website on their website.

Publicizing your relationship will not only benefit you, but will also help to raise awareness that 'giving' should be a part of every business.

About the Author

Article is co-authored by Athelia Woolley and Emily McCormick. Shabby Apple offers women's dresses. Be sure to check out Shabby Apple's new fit to flatter tool to help women find the perfect fit in a dress. Shabby Apple has a charitable giving program that is helping women worldwide.

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