Supporting the Community: Tough Choices Need to be Approached Strategically

Supporting the local community can be expensive. Even large organizations have to be careful about how and where they lend their time – and money. Is there value – beyond personal satisfaction – in supporting local events and activities? Which ones? How can you say “no” graciously to the many requests that come your way?

Research from the Council on Foundations, indicates that over a 10-year period, companies with good corporate citizenship images and programs enjoyed a 33 percent lead in growth of profits over competitors without such programs.

These efforts, though, need to be done strategically! The factors that go into determining whether you will support specific goodwill advertising requests are the same factors that go into virtually every business decision you make: your market, your business objectives and the resources you have available (your budget).

As you work to develop your own “goodwill policy,” follow these steps:

1. Identify the communities and market you serve and where you’d like to maintain a “goodwill” presence.

2. Take a look at the policies other organizations have established. Contact other businesses in your area to see if they have policies and if you could get a copy. Look on the Internet – do a search of “community relations.” You’ll find many examples from companies large and small with elements that may be appropriate for you.

3. Take stock of the opportunities available to you. Review requests you’re received in the past. Begin to pay closer attention to the goodwill ads that run in your area newspapers. Contact other business people or community leaders to determine what some of the key local issues are. Then compile a list of the various opportunities out there and take a look at that list in light of your unique business characteristics and personal values.

4. Establish criteria for making “yes” or “no” decisions -and stick to them. The more clearly you can define the types of issues or requests you’ll support, the more readily you’ll be able to deal with those requests as they come in. Clear criteria will make “no” decisions easier to make and can help you more quickly deal with the requests that you receive.

5. Develop a budget – and stick to it. Budget for goodwill contributions as you would any other expense. Determine how you will allocate those funds to the specific areas you identified earlier. If you’ve planned well, you should have ample funds to help support the efforts you’ve chosen throughout the year. If not, you’ll have additional information for next year.

The key is consistency. Clearly identify your goals and the criteria you’ll use in analyzing each request you receive. Establish a giving practice that you can support – one that allows you to respond authoritatively to requests, whether that response is “yes” or “no.”

It’s literally impossible to support every worthy cause, even in the smallest community. Identifying your objectives, developing a plan and sticking to it will ensure that you can direct your efforts most appropriately for maximum impact – for you and the activities you support.

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