How Small Businesses Can and Do Help Charities

     As people are becoming more concerned about poverty and suffering around the world, “social responsibility” has become somewhat compulsory for many large corporations. According to the Giving Institute (, Walmart, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Exxon, AT&T and many others are known for donating millions of dollars to charities each year. Yet, they only account for about 5 percent of all donations to U.S. nonprofit organizations.

     The significance of this statistic is that the largest donor group is made up of individuals and small businesses. According to a study by the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, a staggering 90 percent of small businesses support local charitable organizations and nonprofits. Though the individual contributions may be small compared to the donations from multimillion-dollar corporations, they are collectively contributing billions of dollars to philanthropy.

     All of this goodwill reflects positively on small businesses in local communities and does not go unnoticed. As the economy shrinks and the public becomes more aware of the struggles that local charities are experiencing, raising funds to help these organizations increases a businesses visibility and may even bring in new revenue. The key is to maximize exposure by publicizing events or donations through media, newsletters and advertisements. People feel better when they associate themselves with businesses that are helping the community. For some people suffering through hard times, doing business with a company that supports charities may be the only way they can help causes they care about.

Charity Marketing: A Mutually Beneficial Arrangement
     Obviously, the charitable organizations benefit by partnering with businesses, but it’s also a good marketing strategy for the companies that make the commitments. The keys to successful charity partnerships include choosing
  • the right charity partner
  • the right avenue of making donations
  • the right marketing strategy to inform your customers about your involvement

Partner with a Charity that Reflects Your Values
     Finding a charity whose work and values are reflected in your company’s mission is an important first step. Support of any charity is a good move, but finding one that complements your vision and your customers’ values will maximize the rewards for the charity and your business.

     For example, when Storyville Coffee Company ( was looking for a charity partner, they sought to extend their philosophy that “a cup of coffee is a catalyst to slow down and create space to dream and imagine.” They found their match with the International Justice Mission’s (IJM) ( fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. By helping the IJM’s work to physically set people free, they also helped those people become free to dream.

     Storyville Coffee Company and the IJM developed a plan to raise money and awareness of human trafficking. To spread the word, Storyville Coffee publicized its decision to donate 100 percent of its profits for an entire month and to organize and sponsor a national concert tour to raise awareness about the IJM. Through these charitable acts, people heard about and cared about Storyville Coffee.

Create Your Avenue to Donate
     Depending on the type of business, there are several ways to raise monetary donations for a charity partner.

  1. Percentage of Sales. As illustrated in the Storyville Coffee Company example, if you run a business that sells products or services, it is simple to designate a percentage of profits for a charity donation. This could be an across-the-board percentage of total sales, or it could be a percentage of the sales of a particular product or service sold. Product-based businesses can designate certain products to generate donations. Service-oriented businesses can offer discounted deals and packages, with some of the proceeds benefiting the charity. Be creative in offering your charity designated products or services.

  2. Private-Label Products. Any number of products can be developed and sold to benefit the charity. There are many private-label companies that produce products such as candles, chocolates, beverages, condiments, cosmetics—almost anything you like. These products can be customized with a private label.
         An example of a private-label success is Ethos Water (, founded in 2001 as a social start-up venture to help children around the world get clean water. It was acquired by Starbucks Coffee Company in 2005. Ethos Water and Starbucks are committed to raising awareness of the world water crisis. The water is now sold in Starbucks stores and in many grocery, convenience and drug stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. A portion of the sales goes toward humanitarian water programs.

  3. Affiliate Sales. Businesses can partner with charitable organizations that promote the company, which, in turn, donates a portion of the sales generated back to the charity.

Getting the Word Out

  1. Enlist the Charity’s Lists. Enlist volunteers of the charity to sell your role in making donations. Ask them to send out information in their newsletters and fliers and to spread the word on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Give them additional incentives to encourage higher sales. You will benefit from the increased exposure, and they will earn much-needed funds.

  2. Organize an Event. Special fundraising events for your favorite charity can be rewarding and fun for the whole community. Encourage other businesses in the area to participate by helping with the organization of an event or by volunteering services in exchange for their name being included in the list of sponsors. To save costs, get as many special deals as you can by explaining the event is for charity. In any negotiation, always ask “Is that the best you can do?” You will be surprised by how powerful that simple question can be.

     Not all charity events need to be like a national concert tour. An example of a local charity fundraiser is a semiformal event that was held in a beautiful bed-and-breakfast in a small New England town. The owners of the B&B were happy to offer the inn at no charge because of the exposure they received, as attendees toured the rooms and took brochures.

     To keep costs low, simple food was planned. The dining room was set up with a variety of cheeses, fruits, breads and crackers. Volunteers prepared and served hors d’oeuvres, desserts and wine to the guests. Another volunteer played a violin softly in the background. They charged $75 per couple and sold items donated by local businesses and artists via a silent auction. It was a memorable event. Not only did they raise a considerable amount of money for the charity but the generosity of the businesses that participated in the event made a lasting impression on the guests.

     Charity marketing isn’t just another marketing gimmick. According to the study by the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, 80 percent of small-business owners surveyed believe their efforts benefit the communities they serve more than their own businesses. Giving back to the community by helping those in need reflects the core values that are important to many small businesses and their customers. was founded to help local businesses attract customers by providing a platform for businesses to create coupon campaigns for free. The site offers a way for businesses to save money on advertising and marketing while helping customers save money while shopping and doing business locally. In addition, Cherry Planet is committed to donating 10 percent of its profits to worthy charities. Visit for more information. 

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