Let’s face it when you’re starting out in business or even a couple of years in – you put everything you have into it. Time, money, energy, blood, sweat and a lot of tears!
Not much really but businesses can still find creative ways to give back.
The most common feedback from small to medium size businesses who donate to a charity or cause is they don’t feel adequately recognised or are burnt by past experiences, that their contributions was not valued. It’s not to say we give expecting anything back, but some horror stories highlight common mistakes businesses make, including:
- Only looking at the big charities
- Thinking the only way to contribute is monetary
- Not setting clear boundaries about what you’re prepared to do or not
Often when we look to give, it’s at charities that are very visible in doing incredible things (to be fair there’s a lot out there… over 52,000 registered charities in Australia). But we tend to go with the ones know of. These are often the bigger ones and have the market budget to extend their reach. The benefit of giving to a registered charity
is that they have DGR status, which means that for $2 or above you donate, it’s tax deductible.
I am in no way discounting the incredible work they do, but there is a great deal of other causes that would really benefit from assistance and there is probably more scope in how you work with them. The chances are that a big charity will not have the capacity to recognise each donor (think of the number of individual donors, companies and corporates giving) in the way you might be seeking.
A smaller charity or cause, however, would likely have a greater capacity to do this, on their social media, newsletter and through their networks. Where the smaller charities lack, they make up with immense gratitude as their need and lack of resources or ability to attract resources can be much greater than their bigger counterparts.
We never really talk about the ‘little guys’, so in addition, the number of registered charities, Australia also has 600, 000 Not For Profits and a further countless community organisations that don’t fall under these classifications. Examples of these organisations might be your local playgroup, youth service, women’s refuge or neighbourhood centre. These literally run on the smell of an oily rag but are so important for our community.
Most people think that the only way to support a cause or charity is to give money. Sure, that’s great and important, but it can be hard when it’s already a challenge to cover your business costs. What you don’t realise is that perhaps there’s another way you can contribute – you have a unique set of skills, experience and resources that might be exactly what an organisation or group could benefit from.
An example of this is a yoga studio I worked with, located across the road from a youth service. The service’s most challenging youth were a group of 15-year-old boys with anger issues. Together we found a solution of the yoga teacher donating her time for one hour a week to teach the boys mindfulness practices. It gave them life skills and created a safe, harmonious space to come to weekly and work with the youth service around their other needs.
Set Clear Boundaries
Treat any engagement with a charity, community organisation or cause as developing a relationship in the same way you would with a client or business partnership. Consider building a meaningful relationship that can flourish into a mutually beneficial partnership.
It is important to consider what you can do for them, that actually help and meets their needs. But also ask how can they benefit you? Maybe it’s your logo on their website, or being invited to an event they’re hosting or referring their network to your amazing business.
By developing this relationship, conversations can emerge that break down any assumptions or expectations and work towards fostering a partnership. I encourage businesses to communicate what their limitations are, as part of clearly defined boundaries and to consider drafting a MOU. You are giving your time, skills and energy which are valuable so it’s ok to protect yourself.
Energise and Ignite Your Passion
There is a community organisation, charity or cause for pretty much anything – it’s a matter of tapping into what you are passionate about or what might strategically align with the mission of your business. There are countless choices, and once you start researching you might get a bit overwhelmed – so I encourage you to start locally.
It can be calling your local Council or talking with friends who work in the community sector. Once you find that cause that ‘lights you up’ it will ignite something within you, foster a way to give in a more authentic way and develop a stronger connection with our local and wider community.
We’re Tribal Beings, Get Connected!
If you need help to connect to a cause or charity, get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathryn Brooks, Founder and Community Facilitator at Social Threads, a start-up social enterprise that works with charities and businesses to create tangible not tokenistic impact. Kathryn was inspired by the concept of ‘social threads’ that bind a community.
These threads need to be resilient and connected to keep a community strong. When the threads are broken or tangled – that’s when there is a break down leading to social issues.
Kathryn sees her role as helping to untangle, mend, and strengthen these threads.