philanthropic giving

by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Last month, we began to look at deciding what to give to – what your focus should be.  This is actually a lot tougher to determine than you might think.  How do you choose? 

In the last post, I outlined a number of ways to look at the question.  You can align your focus by products and services you offer, by your brand, because of your location or even your history.  But wait!  There’s more.  Before you make a decision, consider three more areas:

  • Your CEO or Leadership – This is a touchy but important one.  What does the founder, owner or CEO care about?  If you’re one of these people and you’re driving the change, then you’re ahead of the game (…and I’d encourage you to think about the point below, on employees).  If you aren’t, and you’re seeking buy in from those who made the giving decisions before, make sure you carefully inquire about what they think and if there are any areas of giving that are important to preserve.  You may have already hit on this in the history discussion as the two are often intertwined.
  • Employees – Who are your employees?  What are they like?  What do they care about?  What do they like?  Are they unique in any specific way?  Taking a look at the demographics, interests and experiences of your employees is important because it provides a perspective you might not have considered.  This doesn’t mean you’re asking your employees to tell you what to give to.  It means you’re looking at who they are and what they care about so that, which might lead you to considering certain kinds of nonprofits that otherwise might not make it into the discussion.
  • What you won’t give to – It might be obvious, but any discussion about what to support should include conversation about what NOT to support.  Are there certain types of nonprofits that aren’t in line with what you do or what you believe?  Does the company have policies against aligning its brand with political candidates, for example, or religious activity?  Or do you prefer not to give to multi-year campaigns or not to give products away?  All of this is important to know.

 Now, take a moment to jot down what you’ve figured out, using a chart like this: 

Category Nonprofits/Causes (ideas)
Products or Services  
What you won’t give to  


This exercise will leave you with a lot of ideas and different potential directions to take.  It won’t answer your question immediately, but it will help to narrow or orient the discussion.  With this information, you can better step through the options, considering which one is the right one for your business.  If possible, involve line employee as well as leadership in this process to help encourage buy in for the choice you make.  After all, you will want the team to embrace the decision and help champion the focus on behalf of your company, your brand.  You want them to be proud. 

Two final notes on selecting a giving focus.  First, you don’t have to be 100% absolute, never straying from your focus.  You can decide “what you give to as a business” in a public way and still privately support other organizations that are meaningful to you (like those you uncovered in the history of CEO discussion).  Corporate giving budgets usually contain a mix of programs that made it there for different reasons.  You may give to certain nonprofits because of history and others because you have an executive serving on the board.  The publicly stated giving focus should both convey a strong story about your support of the cause and should help the groups asking you for money to focus their requests.

Second, when you ultimately decide on your giving focus, be open that it is something you will revisit over time.  Although it is not a decision to rethink every year, it is appropriate to stop, at key points in a company’s growth and after key events, to reevaluate.  For example, your business outgrows its current building and moves across town to a new location, in a neighborhood with different needs.  What moves to the “history” category, and what’s new about how you want to give?  Maybe you merge with another company that has a different giving focus.  Which one do you keep or do you come up with a new approach altogether that fits who you will be in the future?  These are but two examples of why there can and should be room to change.

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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

A series on building a giving plan.

When businesses start up and begin to market themselves – whether they’re a new store in the shopping center down the street or an IT company – people come calling, asking for money, asking for involvement.  This is all good, but it can be overwhelming if you haven’t thought through what to do and what not to do.

The typical business responds case by case, selecting an event to support, a nonprofit to help or a school to champion.  Often these decisions are made by the founder or owner of the company and have a lot to do with what that person cares about.  Make no mistake, this isn’t bad.  It’s where most businesses begin when it comes to philanthropy, and it can help you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Over time, it’s easy for a lot of money, effort, time, and even product to be used to support the requests you receive – more resources than you might expect.  So when you are seeking to be more strategic about giving, deciding to drive it versus respond to requests, it’s important to stop and figure out the actual amount of giving you do.  This is kind of like going on a treasure hunt.

How To: How much are you giving?

Review your company’s spending, working with the people who lead key areas marketing, product fulfillment and accounting.  Ask everyone to document, the best they can, what the company does for free.  This may include:

  • Philanthropic donations – If you have a specific budget established for this, great.  That makes your life easier.  If you don’t, then figure out where the donations are hitting your General Ledger.  Are they being assigned to marketing?  Or does the CEO have a discretionary fund that’s tapped here and there?  This is anything but scientific.  You may need to dig through details with your financial team and ask follow up questions to understand why the company spent money on certain things.  You are literally building a philanthropy budget line by line.
  • Sponsorships - It’s not unusual for companies to mix sponsorships and donations in the same budget.  The language people use when they ask for money can be confusing.  For example, a nonprofit may ask you to sponsor an event.  Is that a marketing expense or a donation?  It depends.  Ask why the money is being invested.  If it is being spent to promote the company and drive business, then it’s marketing (which usually comes with promotional opportunities, logo placement, tickets, and so on).  If it’s a charitable gift, done to support the nonprofit because you believe in it and you want to do good in the community, then it’s a gift.
  • Employee/community relations – Another area worth exploring is the HR budget where you may spend money on events or efforts that are aimed at connecting your company or employees to the community.  For example, you might belong to the local Chamber of Commerce or the Rotary Club.  Again, ask yourself why you are involved and whether the money is about benefits you receive in return or about giving.  It’s easy to get confused.  For example, you may have a membership at the local children’s museum so employees can take their kids to visit.  That’s a membership and a company benefit for employees, which is an HR investment.  The children’s museum asks you to sponsor an event.  You decide to do it because the museum store is a potential customer for the products you produce.  That’s a marketing investment.  The museum’s executive director then asks you to make a donation to the annual fund, supporting the museum’s operations.  That’s giving.
  • Products or Services – The final area to consider is the actual products and services you provide to the market.  I’m talking about what you, as a business, sell.  Say you are a local beverage company, making a new organic product.  How many bottles of this product do you donate to nonprofits for their events?  What, in dollars, does this equate to?  The same applies for professional services.  If you provide a service, like Web design, how much of this do you do for free, for charitable reasons (not to help appease an unhappy customer)?  Assign the appropriate dollar value to the donation, and count this in your giving total.

Adding it all up!

Philanthropic donations $ ________
Donations disguised as sponsorships $ ________
Donations disguised as employee relations $ ________
Donations of products or services $ ________
Total giving  = $ ________


Now that you have a good sense of what you’re giving (and what that totals up to in terms of $s), it’s time to think about what kind of cause you’d like to adopt – what makes sense for your business, your employees, your community.  Tune in to the next post we continue the focus on building a giving plan.

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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good and Blackbaud

It’s here!  Finally!

TODAY is #GivingTuesday, THE opening day of the gviing season.  How are YOU going to mark the occasion?  I have a few suggestions just in case you can’t think of anything…

1 – Make a donation to a nonprofit you care about

2 – Volunteer your time for an important case

3 – Help your neighbors

4 – Donate a percentage of your profits earned today

Just do something!  I’m marking the day a number of ways, but the one you’ll care about the most is the launch of a new eBook on skills-based volunteerism for small businesses.  Done in partnership with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners, this eBook tells you everything you need to know about how to get started = why do, how to do it and examples of companies doing great work.  Over the next weeks, I’ll be sharing the stories from the eBook to provide a little inspiration for you.

So stay tuned!!

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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

It’s THREE weeks until #GivingTuesday!  And wow am I excited about that.

Really, the thought of individual people, small businesses, large companies, nonprofits, cities and even states or regions all kicking in to begin the giving season in style is just plain exciting.  And, no, it’s not to late to make some last-minute plans.

Over the past two months on Business Doing Good, we’ve been talking about #GivingTuesday, this wonderful movement to celebrate the beginning of the holiday giving season and provide an antidote of sorts to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  I’ve provided a bunch of tips in an effort to demystify the movement and make it even more accessible to small businesses.  If you missed the series, then click here for a summary recap of the main points.  And don’t worry.  Remember, just doing something is a step in the right direction.

If you’re interested in learning  more about giving and serving within the workplace — or have some gaps you identify as you make your #GivingTuesday plans — then check out the main Resources page on this blog for more helpful information in PDF form.  It’s all there for when you need it.

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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

You’ve made your plans, involved your employees and picked an AMAZING nonprofit partner for a #GivingTuesday promotion.  You’re ready to act, raise awareness for a good cause and raise some money, all in the spirit of kicking off the holiday giving season.

What now?  Now, you need to shout from the rooftops about what you’re doing.  Yep, it’s time to get the message out.

Even though #GivingTuesday isn’t until December 2nd, don’t wait to begin talking about what you’re doing.  One thing we’ve learned from the first two #GivingTuesdays is that a little build up is a good thing.  So get that person (or people) who handles marketing and outreach for your business and put a list together of all the ways you can and should tell people what you’re doing.  Here are some ideas to get you started…

1) Begin with social media.  Like it or not, #GivingTuesday is a largely social-media-driven movement.  The hashtag WILL trend on THE DAY, and you want to take advantage of that by getting your posts into the mix.  Decide what your core, simple message for social media will be, what hashtags you’ll include from your nonprofit partner and what link you’ll include (hint – a link to where people can make a donation is a really good idea).  Create a series of posts you can issue throughout the day.  For example, if you have a campaign where you can report on progress ($s donated, goods given, people participating in some way), then use social media to give status reports and urge others on.  If you don’t have a campaign like that, just think about different things you can say to highlight the day and your efforts.  Some messages can be as simple as “It’s #GivingTuesday, and <insert your handle> is proud to help kick off the giving season…”  Others that follow can provide more detail.  PLEASE remember not to be salesy.  This day is about giving, celebrating community, and having fun.  And don’t think you have to wait until the day to begin posting.  Remember, build up is a good thing.  At a minimum, plan to begin your tweets the week before.

2) Post it on your website.  Take over some real estate on your website, posting the #GivingTuesday logo and a message about how you’re involved.  If you want to get more ambitious, provide a page with more details.  Link to your nonprofit partner as well. 

3) Go old school with your communication.  If you have a storefront or a place a business where people visit you regularly, post a #GivingTuesday sign indicating where people can go to get more information.  Yes, signs still work.  One nonprofit even created stickers to give to every person who entered its zoos last year on #GivingTuesday.  Pretty clever and easy to do.

4) Share your story.  If you have a company newsletter or bulletin (or email update), share what you’re doing, why you love your nonprofit partner, and so on.  Put a personal spin on it, showing how your employees are rallying around #GivingTuesday, how they’re having fun for a good cause.  If you have some connections with local media, PLEASE reach out and tell them what you’re doing.  The media will be looking for stories to bring #GivingTuesday to life, and the fact that a small business is involved is an interesting angle.

5) Ask your nonprofit partner to mirror what you’re doing so you all benefit from the increased love and attention.  In an ideal world, you’ll have a complete communication plan that you crafted with your partner.  But I know you’re busy and ideal doesn’t always happen. So at the very least, share your plan with your partner and ask the organization to mirror what you’re doing from their own perspective.

And, remember, have fun.  Get excited.  And then ride the momentum you create through the holiday season!

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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Your #GivingTuesday thinking is firming up, and your team is excited.  So what’s next?  Next is ALL ABOUT picking a great nonprofit partner.

As a reminder, #GivingTuesday is a movement, not an organization unto itself.  That means that the money raised as a result of #GivingTuesday campaigns goes to the nonprofits running said campaigns (or ones that people simply pick that day as a personal expression of their support).  As a small business embracing the #GivingTuesday momentum, you have the opportunity to select a great nonprofit partner, with a fabulous cause, and channel your efforts into highlighting how and why donors can support them on the big day.

The first place to look for this partner is right in front of your nose.  Begin with where you give today, considering any existing relationships you might have with a community group or a nonprofit in your geographic area or that’s tied to the kind of work you do.  But before you dive in and make final plans, take a moment to consider whether #GivingTuesday is an opportunity to connect with someone new.  Ask your team for ideas!

  • Are there new nonprofits in the community that are doing cool things that are just flat out impressive?
  • Are there groups that employees support and always wished the business would take on?
  • Is there a key issue facing the market you serve — or the place where your business is located — that would be a timely choice?
  • Is there an organization out there with a brand you admire that would help elevate YOUR own brand?

Once you do some brainstorming, and look at past or existing partnerships, consider that calendar of events and promotions you put together.  Does that provide any additional inspiration?  Don’t just fixate on big name groups.  Sometimes the small, new organizations in town are more nimble and can be willing to try creative ideas. 

Now you’re ready.  Pick up the phone, invite people to coffee and begin conversations with potential nonprofit partners about what you have in mind.  Go into these meetings with an open mind, hoping to generate even more new ideas for what you — together with the nonprofit — can do to make the most of #GivingTuesday. 

How do you know when you’ve found a good partner?  You’ll come up with an idea, that’s doable, that everyone is excited about.  You’ll agree about who should do what and how you’ll measure success.  You’ll agree that this is a work in progress and maybe the beginning of something bigger.  In other words, you’ll do the best you can to find a “passion match” without overthinking things.  Remember, #GivingTuesday is meant to be a kick off of the giving season.  It’s meant to be fun.  It’s a way to run a promotion or service project at your business while doing good.

 I know I’m making this all sound pretty simple, but the goal here IS pretty straightforward.  We want you to do something.  Then, after you’ve done it, we want you to think about how to build on that #GivingTuesday success next year. 

Next time, we’ll talk about one of THE most important things to do to ensure your #GivingTuesday plan is successful.  We’ll talk about social media and how you should tell your story – to everyone who will listen.  Until then…

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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

#GivingTuesday is seven weeks away.  Seven weeks, yikes! 

But don’t worry, you don’t have to do all the planning on your own to make the most of the opening day of the giving season.  You have a great asset right in front of you – the people who make your small business tick every day. 

#GivingTuesday is already firmly on your radar, which is a huge step.  You’ve been doing some research, looking at how you give back already, considering your promotional calendar for the fall, and taking stock of how the community your business coexists in marks the change of seasons.  I hope, after doing this prep work, you’re excited about the possibilities.  Realistically, I know you’re probably overwhelmed a bit, too.  It’s a busy time for small businesses, a time when sales really matter (but when don’t they?).  A time when everyone is doing more than his or her fair share.

But don’t think of #GivingTuesday as a burden.  Think of it as a way to bring your team together and give them an extra dose of excitement about what’s possible.  How?  A few suggestions on steps:

1 – Get your team together for a pre-holiday season get together.  Celebrate where you are today and the goals you want to achieve by year end.  Begin by saying thank you and showing appreciation.

2 - Convey your excitement about #GivingTuesday, letting them know what it is and why you think it’s a cool opportunity for the business.

3 – Let the team know you need help.  This isn’t about the boss or one person who is passionate about the movement doing everything.  This is an opportunity to do something together that ultimately gives back.

4 – Share a few examples of what other small businesses have done to mark the day, helping the flow of ideas to get going.  If you need examples, check out the #GivingTuesday website or a past blog post.

5 – Begin the brainstorming that day while also announcing a follow up gathering for anyone who is interested in getting more involved.  At this meeting, you can share more details about the research you have done.

6 – Set a deadline for when your plan needs to be finalized, so everyone is clear about the timing.

7 – Make it fun. 

Chances are, at this gathering, you’ll generate some initial ideas that will get the creative juices going.  If you’re enthusiastic, then others will follow suit, helping you to figure out a cool plan that helps the business and gives back to a nonprofit your small business cares about. 

Tune in next time to talk about picking that cause.  With a good nonprofit partner at your side, the work gets shared, as does the benefit.

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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

#GivingTuesday is coming soon.  Are you ready?

A quick look at the calendar this morning gave me a shock.  September 30th already?  No way!  Even though this happens to me every year, I’m still surprised by how quickly time goes once school begins and the fall conference and work season is afoot.  So here we are, two months shy of #GivingTuesday (December 2nd) with much to do.  But never fear, you DO have time to make a plan.  Here’s how to begin.

Begin by thinking about how you already give.  If your small business is like most others, you’re so busy running the operation, helping customers and making daily decisions that you might not have given deep thought to how you engage with your community.  So before you do anything specific related to #GivingTuesday, take a deep breath and assess what you do today to help out.  Ask yourself (or your team) the following questions:

  • What charitable donations (cash) do you make to nonprofits?
  • What in-kind donations (goods or services) do you make to nonprofits?
  • What kind of volunteerism do you engage in on a regular basis (the whole business, teams or individuals)?
  • What special events do you participate in as a business that helps show you are a member of the community?  For example, does your business particiate in a community fair held nearly, a Chamber of Commerce event or Small Business Saturday?

Write down the answers to these questions.  Compiling this overview will help you get a sense of where to go from here, providing hints and clues to where opportunity might be for your business to take the next step.  If you want a little more advice about how to do this audit, check out the following posts shared on this blog, including:

Next week, we’ll take another step in the direction toward having your own #GivingTuesday plan.  Stay with me.  It’s really not that difficult to do something!

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Ready, set, go!  It’s time to think about #GivingTuesday.

I know it’s not December yet (far from it), but the holiday season will be here before you know it, and with Labor Day Weekend well behind us, it’s time to plan.  As I’ve noted before, a little bit of thinking about how you will celebrate the opening day of the giving season is well worth your time.  As a reminder, #GivingTuesday is set for December 2nd this year (following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday).  So as you think about your fall promotions, think about how to weave your giving message into what you do.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take you through some practical, tactical advice about making the most of this exciting movement.  Remember, it’s for everyone — not just nonprofits and big companies.  It’s also for YOUR small business and YOU! 

Before we get into the advice, I thought I’d share some stories from last year, hoping to provide a little inspiration and get the wheels turning. 

  • In Niagara, NY, Community Missions collaborated with Lauren Rose Miller and Rellim Hair & Makeup Design Studio to offer free haircuts to those staying at the Emergency Housing Shelter.  Guests received haircuts while employees from a local Target store painted and updated the Shelter’s three-room common area.
  • White Butterfly Gift Shop in NJ – donated the proceeds of t-shirt sales to support a mother of 5 who cannot afford her cancer treatment.  The Gift Shop also adopted the family for Christmas, asking community members to donate toys for the children.
  • In Chico, California, the Downtown Chico Business Association (DCBA) partnered with the Skyway House and Community Action Agency to complete a variety of Downtown Chico clean-up projects.  Local business owners worked with people recovering from substance abuse on local recycling and beautification projects.  
  • In Baltimore, The Charmery local ice cream shop created a custom flavor for #GivingTuesday and donated all proceeds to supporting the City’s BMoreGivesMore campaign.
  • Limitless Good launched a “Share a Smile, We’ll Share a Meal” campaign to donate to Feeding America.  People were asked to post photos of their smiles on the Limitless Good “Share a Smile” Facebook page and the company provided a $1 donation for each smile shared on #GivingTuesday.  The company was able to fund over 3,500 meals through Feeding America.

 Join me as we go on this journey together…and make December 2, 2014, a huge success!

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By Adam Weinger, President, Double the Donation

Today’s post is the second in a series from Adam Weinger, who runs a company that partners with nonprofits and schools, helping them develop corporate matching gift and employee volunteer grant programs.  After explaining the basics and the business benefits of matching gifts last week, Adam is now going to take us through the “how.” – Rachel

Regardless of the size of your business – small, medium or large – all organizations should focus on three key elements when implementing a matching gift program – what nonprofits are eligible, which employees are eligible, and the importance of having a well-run program.

Eligible Nonprofits – Employees are all different.  Each one will be passionate about a different cause. Allowing them to choose from any 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization or accredited educational institution will increase the chances your people will give. General categories of nonprofits include: K-12 schools, higher education institutions, arts and cultural organizations, environmental groups, health and human service organizations, and civic and community based nonprofits.  Some companies limit their matching gift programs to one or two categories.  If you do that, you need to know that it will limit the number of employees who may be interested in donating. Try to expand the program to include as many types of nonprofits as possible.

Eligible Employees – Most “corporate” giving programs are offered as a benefit to all full-time employees, but we think it may be prudent, especially when starting from scratch, to include part-time employees and spouses, as well. Including a wide network of eligible individuals for the matching gift program will raise your company’s reputation within your community, as these “outskirt” donors may be some of your most active donors and volunteers!

Well-Run Programs – When creating a matching gift program, creating comprehensive and well-thought-out guidelines is a great first step. It’s certainly not the last step, though!  It’s vital that someone within the company takes the time and effort to promote the new giving program both internally to your employees, as well as externally to the community and organizations that your company will be supporting. Make sure there is a strategic outreach plan set for at least 6 months, and ensure that the matching gift request process for your employees is done in a user-friendly way.

Oftentimes, big companies that have been involved in corporate giving for some time transition the request process from paper to an online software, but for a start-up matching gift program, it may be easier and cheaper to begin with a paper request form.  Nonprofit organizations spend their time educating donors and constituents about the possibilities of matching gift programs, but it’s just as important for businesses to do the same with their employees!  

Now that you have some basic tools and resources to start your business’s matching gift program, we wish you good luck! If you need more information or tools, check out the eight most common questions about starting a corporate giving program here.