Do your customers really need another box of chocolates or corporate knickknack during the holidays? For years, General Engineering Laboratories, a consulting firm, located in Charleston, S.C., showered its customers with wine, cookie bouquets, and candy at holiday time. But in 1994, General Engineering decided a change was in order: It altered its holiday giving practices to be more consistent with the philosophy of corporate giving that it practiced throughout the rest of the year.

"Our company is very active in the community, and we give significant donations to many organizations, from health and human services to educational and environmental," explains David McNair, vice-president for corporate development. Now, instead of sending the traditional year-end gift, the company makes a special contribution to charities in honor of its clients. A card is enclosed that says, "In thanksgiving for our many blessings, and in honor of our clients, we are making a special holiday contribution to the _____________ organization. Wishing you a blessed Christmas Season!" Each year, General Engineering donates "an amount in the thousands" that varies each year, depending on the year's profits and the number of charities to which the company is contributing.

"While it's difficult to quantify the direct benefits of such a program," observes McNair, "many customers comment that our gift is thoughtful and refreshing--and it says a great deal about the type of company we are."

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing