When did you last take stock of what and how much you spend as a business on charity and community involvement? If you include financial, practical help and volunteering the answer might surprise you. But how much good is this doing for your business and is there a smarter way to go about this – possibly.

One of our favourite phrases is “doing good is good for business”, but this can sometimes not necessarily be the case if your charity and community involvement is not well structured and thought through.

We have listed below some considerations that you might want to consider when reviewing your charity or community involvement or perhaps embarking on it for the first time.

– Budget. Like any other form of marketing, it is a good idea to set a budget and stick to it. Otherwise expenditure can run away and you have no framework for decisions when you are approached.

– International, national, regional or local. This can depend on where you operate and the size of your business and there is nothing wrong with adopting a mix. For us though as a small to medium sized, predominantly local business we like to stick to local causes, where we can make a difference and the work that we do can get noticed.

– Decide what you want to get out of it. Are you entering into this simply to put something back or you looking to benefit from good PR or make new business connections. Do you want to raise money for a cause or do you have time or skills that you and your employees can contribute. If you are clear on all of these considerations, it makes it easier to make an informed choice of who to partner with.

– To adopt or not to adopt. There are significant advantages to adoption, whether that be for a one, two or three year period. You can develop a good understanding with your partner and from a PR perspective there is a beginning, a middle and an end – all presenting publicity opportunities. Open ended support can also sometimes lead to disappointment at one if not both ends, when you draw matters to a close.

– Policy, policy, policy. It can be a good idea to document what you will or will not do into a short and punchy policy. Making this publicly visible might cut down on the inappropriate or badly matched approaches you get and it also gives you a valid and reasonable reason to say no, when you are fully committed.

– Involve your staff in the decision process. If staff fundraising or volunteering is a key part of what you intend to do, then try and make sure your staff are involved in the decision process in some way. This can be through nominating causes for a shortlist or voting on a shortlist to choose the eventually successful partner.

– Communication is key. Start as you mean to go on. Establish clear lines of communication with your partner and agree nominated contacts and preferred methods of communication. Outline what you intend to do for them and what you are willing to be approached about and equally importantly the things you won’t consider. Make sure you communicate clearly to your staff why you have chosen the partner, what they do and the benefits to the community. As things progress, keep your partner, staff and other stakeholders advised.

We hope this doesn’t make it all sound too complicated, as ultimately doing something is usually better than doing nothing at all. If you want further help we have extensive experience in charity and community involvement, helping firms adopt charities and introducing charity and volunteering policies. We also regularly get asked to publicise charity initiatives. Feel free to contact us if you would like more information.

You may also be interested in our pages on Corporate Social Responsibility or Charity Adoption.

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