Charitable Giving: Choosing a Cause for your Business

11.14.2012 | Heather Campbell


I recently attended Hopelink’s 17th annual Reaching Out Benefit Luncheon, featuring Jeanette Walls, bestselling author of The Glass Castle. The event was excellently done, and saw a turnout from a variety of local and national businesses, including Comcast, NBCUniversal, Boeing, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Nordstrom and Lane Powell. The variety of corporate sponsorship led me to think: What are the best practices around deciding to which charities your company and brand want to dedicate time and funding? Furthermore, how can a company get involved in their community, outside of donations?

After researching what others had to say on the topic, I came up with the following items to think through when choosing a cause for your business to support.

  1.       Consider your Corporate Values

If you have established values (see Communique’s values here), this is the perfect instance to reference them. Keep your values in mind when thinking about the cause you want to support, and be cognizant of the fact that this is a business opportunity, not a personal one. When determining what your potential charity’s values are, it’s important to…

  1.     Research the Organization (and Its Values), not Just the Cause

One of the difficulties of choosing a charitable organization to partner with is that, even when you narrow down your criteria (i.e., aSeattle-based environmental organization), it is difficult to immediately differentiate between one organization and another.  Put in time understanding how the organization addresses its cause—what work do they do, exactly? Does this align with your values? An excellent way to do this is to…

  1.    Contribute Time, not Just Money

Volunteering as a group can be an excellent team – building exercise and can also give you an understanding of how the organization achieves its goals. One way companies can go about encouraging employee volunteerism is through tools like Volunteer Match and HandsOn Network, which can help you establish an employee volunteer program within your organization.  Another way to get involve outside of direct donations is to…

  1.     Co-Sponsor an Event

I mentioned the Hopelink luncheon as an example of an event your company could co-sponsor. There are many alternatives in this space. For example, on Jan.  1, 2010, HandsOn Network and Disney launched “Give A Day, Get A Day“ which rewarded participants for a day’s worth of public service with a free day’s admission to a Disney theme park. This event allowed Disney to play a role in the overall cause of increased community volunteerism, and had over 1 million participants within 12 weeks. While this event was national, the sentiment can be scaled down to a local level if that aligns better with your business’ values and capabilities. This brings me to my last point, which is…

  1.    Think Scale: Local, Global, or Both?

When determining with which charitable organization you would like your company to be involved, a big component you need to think through is scale. Are you representing a small Seattle business? There are plenty of opportunities to get involved locally. Are you representing an international consulting firm? You might consider aligning your international business goals with charitable giving to microfinance institutions that promote entrepreneurial ventures in the developing world, or dedicate your time to an organization promoting education abroad. Thinking through what scale is right for your business is an important element to deciding in what charity your business wants to be involved.

Of course, it is not necessary to have just one organization that your business is committed to—nor is it necessary to have any. If you are looking for a way to promote your values at a local or global level, thoughtful charitable giving is an excellent strategy. Additionally, it can provide great opportunities for team building, morale improvement, and positive publicity. Most importantly, of course, is that it gives your business an opportunity to give back.

For more on selecting a cause, check out:


Heather Campbell


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Filed under: EXPERTISE, INDUSTRY, Non-profits, Planning, Positioning, PR trends, Reputation Management, Strategy

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