The holiday shopping season officially is well under way, and consumers have already spent more than $10 billion on products this season, some as gifts for their loved ones (but many others bought for themselves as well).

In many cities, charitable efforts are in full swing. Many small business owners generate traffic to their establishments by hosting toy drives, coat drives, and "giving trees." Such initiatives generate goodwill in the community, and when promoted via social media, well beyond the local area.

Since its inception four years ago, Giving Tuesday, launched by the 92nd Street Y in New York has resulted in an estimated 470% increase in donations. This year's annual global observance resulted in nearly $117 million in donations to charities while building upon the growth, according to Reuters.

If your company has not donated to a nonprofit yet this year, it's not too late. Here are three reasons to donate this holiday season before December 31:

1. Partnering with a charity or particular cause can result in added customer and employee support
Little gestures make a difference with customers and demonstrate that your company has other vested interests besides the bottom line. Last year, Nielsen conducted a global consumer survey "Do Well by Doing Good", that showed more than half of the respondents were willing to pay more for a product/service from a company committed to a positive social or environmental cause.

Partnering with charities can build goodwill for any company large or small. In lieu of sending Christmas cards, Shaun Clancy, owner of Manhattan's top sports bar Foley's NY Pub & Restaurant, made donations to his favorite charities. He sends greetings via social media and let his customers know why they shouldn't expect a card from him. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Panera Bread is one of many organizations that partners with non-profits on a daily basis. The franchise's Day-End Dough-Nation initiative donates unsold bread and baked goods to local hunger relief and charitable organizations instead of throwing away good food. Efforts such as these help build customer loyalty and make employees feel good about the place they work.

2. Choose a cause that hits close to home
Pick an organization that does work that is important to you and then support its efforts. Business is built on relationships, and if you are proud of your commitment to a specific cause because you have been personally touched, let it be known. You may discover that current or future customers share the same passions, whether it is assistance for the poor, breast cancer, or autism advocacy.
For instance, a recent study revealed that 1 in 45 children (ages 3-17) are now diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Over the past few decades, these numbers have greatly increased. Perhaps someone you know is impacted by autism, it may be a cause that your company would like to help.

Comprehensive Kids Development School, a special education pre-school in New York City that offers an opportunity for children to learn in an environment designed and equipped small groups of kids with learning disabilities.
"Autism is dramatically on the rise, and many children on the autism spectrum need a specialized environment that public schools are not able to provide," says founder Nathan Sklar.

3. Tax Deductions
Donations to non-profit organizations are a way for businesses to boost their tax deductions before the end of the fiscal year while at the same time helping others. "Doing well by doing good" is a tried-and-true method to strengthen bonds with customers and comes with the added bonus of lowering your taxable income. Consult with a certified public accountant to determine how your business can get the most out of your charitable contributions.

For many business owners, now is the time of year that they go from "running in the red" to "running in the black" (thus the term, "Black Friday"). For those companies, revenues are the highest, and by giving back entrepreneurs can many times increase their sales while helping causes they believe in.

Published on: Dec 7, 2015