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News & Press: ABAG's Baltimore Business Journal Column

ABAG's BBJ Column: Corporate Philanthropy – Where Your Company and Community Interests Intersect

Monday, November 10, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz
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November 10, 2014
 
By Celeste Amato, ABAG President, for The Baltimore Business Journal

Maryland businesses play a vital role in maintaining the state’s quality of life, not only providing jobs and economic stability, but also offering charitable support to many projects and programs that enrich the lives of all Marylanders.
 
While business owners across the state are eager to respond to community needs, relatively few have a plan guiding the distribution and use of their charitable contributions.

In the same way that a business plan helps a company stay on course toward its financial goals, a charitable giving program—however informal—can help a business achieve its charitable goals and effectively support the communities it serves.

Determining where your company’s interests and those of the community intersect is particularly key to a successful giving program.

By clarifying your criteria and informing your employees and your community, you can:
  • Reduce time and effort spent deciding which organizations to support
  • Respond more easily to solicitations
  • Limit the number of unwanted requests you receive
  • Assure that your contributions are used for causes that you care about, in ways that you care about
  • Make your contributions more meaningful and effective
Businesses use a variety of criteria to decide how to distribute their money (as well as time and in-kind contributions) for charitable purposes.

"Determine what you want the program to do for you so that you have a strategic focus and clear decision criteria. Are you trying to impact outcomes around a specific community or business issue? Gain positive PR and visibility? Support employee efforts? You will not be able to be all things to all stakeholders—focus is critical to achieving results in the areas you deem important.” — J. Michael Riley, Vice President, Community Involvement, M&T Charitable Foundation

The two most important are:

Your goals
Why do you want to have a charitable contributions program? What do you want to happen as a result of the program?

Desired use of your funds
How do you want your money to be used: for ongoing operations, for specific projects, or for the creation of something tangible, such as equipment or a building?
Your goals may change over time as your business grows and as issues, circumstances and available resources change for you and your community you may find
that your priorities change, too.

Many small and mid-sized companies focus their giving programs on a particular population or specific issues. These needs may fall into broad categories, including education, health and human services, economic development, and the arts.

Focusing your charitable giving on a particular area will enable your company to make a greater impact with its dollars.

  • Respond more easily to solicitations
  • Limit the number of unwanted requests you receive
  • Assure that your contributions are used for causes that you care about, in ways that you care about
  • Make your contributions more meaningful and effective
 
Celeste Amato, president of ‎the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, can be reached at camato@abagrantmakers.org. She is writing a regular column for the Baltimore Business Journal.


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