Tips for Being a Cheerful Giver All Year Long
It's mid-October and the season of opportunitites to donate to various worthy causes is upon us. For most Indies, philanthropy is not seasonal. Instead, we give back in numerous ways, not all of them financial, all year long. I believe that how much we give is not nearly as important as how we give. Giving is not joyful unless it's done with a cheerful heart. If it's not done cheerfully, it's practically meaningless.
But let's face it, as Indie Business owners operating on small profit margins, it can be a challenge to square our desire to give with our ability to give. This means that we must decline some opportunities to give in order to remain profitable.
As we move into the 2007 season of thanks and giving, here are a few tools I have used, or noticed others using, to give cheerfully without breaking the bank.
1. Include Giving Guidelines At Your Website. This ensures that your site visitors can quickly familiarize themselves with your giving practices. In this way, you give consistent information about your philanthropic policies to all who ask. Information about the Indie Beauty Network's philanthropy policy is at the contact page:
If your request is for a donation, note that IBN donates regularly to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations organized under state law, so please include the corporate name and state of incorporation in your request. The exception to this policy is requests from members of the Indie Beauty Network to support a gathering of Indie Beauty business owners in their area. All requests should be made to the contacts above and should include the date of the event, deadlines and a website link.
Another Indie Beauty Network member has done this nicely here.
2. Accept Requests For Donations During A Particular Time Of Year. By limiting donations to a certain time of year, you can focus on meeting your giving goals during a particular time frame. This allows you to give during the rest of the year only as you are financially able, while ensuring that you meet your giving goals.
3. Publicize Your Philanthropic Activities. Include a link at your website sharing the donations that you have made. This lets people know that giving is a part of your company's core principles.
4. Limit Giving To A Particular Geographic Region. I've seen some businesses limit donations to geographic limitations so they can focus on giving in their own personal back yards. This ensures that their donations immediately benefit their neighbors and community.
5. Limit Giving To A Particular Type of Cause. If you are fond of particular causes, limit your giving to those causes. Making this clear at your website shows people that you do make donations, but that they are focuses around a particular issue.
6. Establish Your Own Non-Profit. Former President Clinton's new book Giving: How Each Of Us Can Change The World has awakened a whole new generation to the spiritual, social and economic benefits of giving. When your business can support it, why not consider starting your own non-profit? This is easier in some states than in others, and the IRS will closely scrutinize the books, but it provides a way for you to give of yourself and your assets more fully to a cause that means a lot to you. As long as the funds are not mingled with your for-profit enterprise, the tax benefits can be quite appealing as well.
Consider non-profits like Oprah's Angel Network, the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Foundation, the Body Shop Foundation. According to Oprah's website, all operating costs for Oprah's Angel Network are covered by a personal year-end donation from Oprah to the non-profit foundation. What a fantastic way to ensure that 100% of donations go to the recipients who need them. Plus it's a nice year-end tax deduction for her.
As an Indie Business owner, you may not be able to collect and manage millions of dollars a year, but you might find that this is a fun and inventive way to do your part. Here's a great link to get you started. Also, check out the IRS's charitable organization regulations.
If you have some tips on how you have managed to budget your philanthropic outreach without breaking the bank, please share them!