As businesses grow, their impact on and involvement in a community tend to increase as well, whether by creating employment opportunities, supporting policy or partnering with a charitable organization as a way of "giving back." Companies that donate to a good cause or partner up with a charity should, however, make sure the nonprofit or cause they decide to support aligns with their culture and core values, ensuring a powerful bond and a long-lasting relationship that can further open the door for future organizational growth.
After all, giving back to the community is not only a morally sound thing to do, but it can also help a brand improve its image, forge new relationships and ultimately gain new business opportunities. The first key is identifying the right causes to support, and these six entrepreneurs share their best advice for doing so below.
Let your employees pick.
"I've found supporting charities to be surprisingly polarizing," Kasasa CEO Gabriel Krajicek explains. The main reason, according to Krajicek, is that employees are very passionate about different things and it can be difficult to find a solution that satisfies everyone.
"I've found it's best to let them self-organize around causes they care about and then provide corporate matching funds," Krajicek explains. "It's democratic and has resulted in much higher levels of charity than I think would have resulted if they were 'corporate' charities."
Find out where your customers are donating.
A smart approach would be to support the same charity organizations that your customers endorse -- this would help a brand improve its image exponentially. The only caveat is actually making sure the charity in question aligns with your own values and message, says Shu Saito, CEO of Godai.
"Conduct a review of your audience to identify which causes and nonprofits they support," Saito adds. "Choosing a charity that resonates with your audience will create a stronger sense of community while helping the world at the same time."
Look for authentic, meaningful charities.
Finding an authentic cause or charity that is meaningful to the organization is crucial for the very authenticity of your philanthropic act, after all. According to Lunya founder and CEO Ashley Merrill, all businesses should start by looking for high-level nonprofits that are relevant to them and their community.
"I spent a lot of time getting to know the philanthropy teams, understanding their impact and ensuring that aligned with our company goals, philanthropically speaking, before getting involved," Merrill explains.
Consider their past results.
For entrepreneurs such as MemberPress founder and CEO Blair Williams, what matters most when deciding which nonprofit to support is its history and actual results: "Before I'm willing to work with a nonprofit or donate my time, I want to see the results of these organizations before I came along."
Organizations should look specifically at what the charity they want to support did to help people and what plans they have for the future. "I need to see tangible benefits for others before I'm willing to use money and resources to help nonprofits," Williams adds.
Leverage online tools.
A great way to pick a reliable organization that you know for sure will use your money for good is to research your options online, says Robert Calise, co-founder and CTO at ContentPair.
"If you know which cause you'd like to back, there are probably a number of organizations out there to choose from," Calise says. His recommendation for any organization looking for the right charity is to use resources such as CharityNavigator: "They've already done the heavy lifting and offer a transparent rating system to help you understand exactly how your donation will be used."
Choose a local organization.
And if you really want your charitable efforts to help your community thrive, make sure you choose a local organization, Alphametic CEO Matthew Capala advises: "We are supporting Girl Power in Miami because we believe in their mission and they are close to our office."
This proximity allows Alphametic to not only provide funding, but also participate in the implementation and other actions organized by this intervention and social change organization, Capala explains. "We attend their fundraisers as an office activity, and we volunteer very frequently. Be close to your nonprofit to be of service."