Helping Others – and Yourself

Now is the perfect time to implement a partnership with a nonprofit cause. With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, there are some great ways you can emphasize to customers your commitment to your community.

Sponsorships. One easy way is to contribute to a charity’s existing fundraiser. While golf tournament season is over, many charities hold wine-tastings, dinners, and other events. Normally they will have sponsorship levels that offer promotional opportunities in return. They may also have fundraising auctions where a small donation of goods or services gets your company mentioned.

Donate goods. Giving away slow-moving merchandise can get you a great tax deduction and a great reputation, too! Don’t assume you have to supply goods directly related to their mission – many small groups would welcome a viable used piece of equipment for their facility or office. During the holidays the Hartford Courant publishes a “Wish List” for local organizations. Read through it to see if something you have might be a Big Need for a worthy charity.

Collecting contributions. It could be as easy as placing a donation can on your counter, or as involved as gathering groceries for a local food pantry. (A nonprofit trade secret: While people LOVE the idea of donating individual items, in reality most food banks LOVE cash gifts. Instead of expending resources transporting, sorting, and trying to fairly distribute random foodstuffs, they can purchase equitable quantities of exactly what clients want at wholesale prices! Another secret? A rarely addressed pantry need is for diapers and personal toiletries. Many also distribute pet food contributions.)

Donate space. Borders Books had a great holiday program where they supplied a table and gift wrap supplies during busy shopping days. Local nonprofits recruited volunteers to wrap gifts for customers in exchange for tips & donations. Or you could just offer table space for a group to let people know about their mission during times your store expects high traffic.

Volunteer time. This year the Channel 3 Kids Camp is running the Holiday Light Fantasia in Goodwin Park in Hartford. They are looking for companies willing to staff short shifts. (Interested in helping? Contact Christine Homa at It could be a heart-warming “team-building exercise” for your employees – especially if you provide the hot chocolate!

Hire a nonprofit’s volunteers. Here’s a unique idea I came across: Hire volunteers from a local group to act as Secret Shoppers for your store. Pay the volunteer $15, for example, and donate an additional $15 to the charity for each visit. It’s cheaper than a professional shopping service and you can personalize the questionnaire to the top 5 items you want staff to achieve.

A final tip: Supporting big organizations that work for children or solving large-scale health or social issues may link your company name to a popular cause, but the reality is that these “brand name” groups raise huge amounts of money annually. Please consider a small, local organization as a recipient of your charitable efforts! The smaller the nonprofit, the bigger the impact of whatever amount you help raise. And you know you’re giving back directly to the local community.

Posted by Vanessa