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Charitable giving programs: The gift that keeps on giving

According to a recent survey commissioned by American Express, about one-third of Canadian small businesses donated to charitable organizations this past holiday season, despite the severe economic downturn. Savvy small business owners recognize that charitable donations not only forge ties between businesses and their communities, but also that it pays to be generous. On top of obvious tax benefits, a study by the Better Business Bureau found that for every dollar given by a small business to a charitable organization, two to three dollars were returned in sales.If your small business is looking to create a charitable giving program, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Determine how much your business can give each year.
    This will help focus your charitable giving efforts while also providing an accurate response to community or media inquiries. Consider focusing on a very specific gift within a distinct time period, i.e.: “From now until June, 5 percent of our sales will go to local schools!”
  2. Know your province or territory’s tax, fundraising and charitable giving laws.
    Some provinces require specific documentation based on amount donated or require that all gifts are made to registered nonprofit organizations to be tax deductible. Make sure that your business is giving to a legitimate and reputable organization, and that you are taking steps to ensure proper documentation for tax purposes. Additionally, some of the methods described below will require referencing in-kind donation or raffle guidelines by province as well.
  3. Figure out where gifts are going, and consider involving employees in decision making.
    Some small businesses give to the same foundation or charity year after year. While this establishes solid relationships with organizations, you may want to consider spreading the wealth to a variety of organizations with different missions or beneficiaries.Involve employees in the process by asking for nominations and votes. Make it a contest by seeing who can give the best sales pitch explaining why a certain organization needs the business’s gifts. Give prizes to the winner(s) like a Cookie Assortment Tin. Or, make it a truly team effort by asking that each employee volunteer their time to raise money for a charity of their choice, and offer a matching contribution from the business. Top fundraising employees can earn larger prizes such as a Seven-in-One Family Game Set or a Stemless Wine Glass Set.
  4. Remember that gifts don’t have to be monetary.
    If your small business simply isn’t in a position to give dollars, keep community ties and staff morale high by continuing to give in the form of in-kind donations or volunteerism. Donate items for auction or raffle. If your business is not in the business of selling or manufacturing consumer goods, purchase and donate items that can aid in an organization’s fundraising efforts. For example, perhaps a nonprofit is hosting an event with an auction or swag bags—you could donate bags like a Carry-All Tote Bag branded with your logo to use. Or, if it’s a more casual event, supplies like Budget pencils.Have staff volunteer at events, offering paid time for those who volunteer to do so, or make another contest out of it: Which employee can log the most volunteer hours, outside of office hours? Reward volunteers with gift certificates to their favourite restaurant or store, paired with an X-Cube.   If you really want to go all out, make a day of it, and sponsor a golf outing or a marathon. Charge participants an entry fee that will be donated, or ask that they raise a certain dollar amount to qualify for participation. Get participants ramped up with golf accessories like the Caddie Pack Golf Ball Set or runners’ gear like a PETE Sport Bottle.

Charitable giving truly is the gift that keeps on giving—it can return in tax benefits, sales, employee morale and community recognition. So, get giving!

“SME Toolkit – Small Business Charitable Giving Guide for the Holiday Season.” SME Toolkit – IBM small business toolkit – free small business information – SME Toolkit – US. Web. 09 Nov. 2009.

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