It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle-belling
And everyone telling you
Be of good cheer
It's the most wonderful time of the year
...or has it become... the most CHARITABLE time of the year?
As a business owner, this is the time of year that your mailbox and inbox is flooded with requests for charitable donations. Veterans with small children who have no where to live, children whose fathers are in prison whose mothers have no money to afford presents, elderly people alone in nursing homes without family to visit, animals found abused or neglected, and the list goes on and on. Your employees come to you asking if you're able to throw a few dollars toward their favorite charity, bell ringers at the door of your favorite grocery store, and your heart goes out to each charity and individual. The question is...
How do you decide which charity you will donate to? How much will you donate?
Of course, your initial reaction is to give a little something to every one. Each story tugs at your heart strings and compels you to open your wallet. And then you realize that the wallet is empty and there are still more requests. Now, what do you do? If you say no, you feel like you've failed someone. Is the Veteran more worthy of a donation than the child who has holes in his shoes? Where is the line? Or...have you already heard these horror stories from other professionals and business owners and instead of drawing the line, you simply say 'NO' to every one right from the start?
Do you write a policy to help you next year? Do you appoint a team and a process to ensure fairness and equality?
No one wants to be a Scrooge, but business is business. The following suggestions may help you move forward in a way that allows for charitable giving, but also allows you to say no and keep some money in the bank:
1) Set a Budget - decide how much you will spend annually on charities and stick with it.
2) Do Your Homework - learn about how organizations use the money. You don't want your money going to an organization where pennies on the dollar actually make it to help the cause. Determine if you want to choose worldwide organizations, local organization, or both.
3) Be Fair - you don't want to give $5,000 to one organization and $5 to the other. Your budget process may allot for a certain percent going to local charities and a different percent to worldwide charities. Set a minimum and maximum amount, use matching funds with a limit, or limit the number of organizations you will contribute to each year. If you limit the number of organizations, you may want to look at your own mission and/or vision statement and make sure that you are aligning your business with a charitable organization that has a similar mission/vision or at least one that is not contrary to where your business is headed.
4) Share the Responsibility - engage others in your organization. Let them choose the recipients. Asking for the input of others will relieve some of your stress and will all but eliminate the perception that the company only gives to your 'pet projects'.
5) Set Expectations - Have a form or process. There are things you want to know about the charity or organization you are giving to. You wouldn't just hand a $500 check to someone knocking at the door, so be prepared - when they do knock, ask them to complete your form and provide the information that is importation to you (ie: how long has the charity/organization been around, who determines how my money is used, does the money stay local, etc...)
6) Let Others Know - Let others in your organization know how the charitable giving process works at your company. This will eliminate those emails that tug at your heart strings. If an employee learns of a worthy cause, they will know how to get their cause on the list for consideration. They shouldn't feel like you are being unfair, you are simply following the rules of the company. This helps your employees look smart too - if they are approached on Thanksgiving day by a well meaning friend or family member, they can respond "our company does give to different organizations each year, it's too late to get on the list for this year, but I can pass the information along for consideration next year" (the employee looks good, you look good, and the company looks good)!
What works for you? What have you done in the past? Have you tried any of the techniques listed above? We want your feedback - now and always!
And don't worry, we know - it really is, THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!