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How to Decide What Deserves Your Brand’s Charitable Contributions

How to Decide What Deserves Your Brand’s Charitable Contributions

Raise your hand if you remember “Jerry’s Kids,” the children supported by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Each year, comedian and philanthropist Jerry Lewis would stage a Labor Day MDA marathon to raise money for the organization. It was a massive production that usually included plenty of Lewis’ friends. He would tirelessly sing, dance, and joke — and the world could watch because it was televised live.

As a child, I loved the idea of being able to raise funds any way I could. Both of my parents had imbued a spirit of giving in me, so I marched around the neighborhood with a coffee can and collected donations for Jerry’s Kids. Then, my folks took me to the station that aired MDA broadcast because it had a drop-off site in its parking lot.

Being part of something so important and bigger than myself gave me a sense of how I could help others. That desire to help only grew as I got older. By the time I arrived at my college campus, I was ready to dive into the student body’s charitable efforts. As a consequence, I volunteered for a program that helped inner-city kids in Syracuse, New York. It kept me fueled spiritually.

[Related: Women and Giving: Increasing the Happiness Quotient]

Giving back as a member of the c-suite.

Now that I’m an adult and business owner, I still focus on giving because it’s so ingrained in my being. In particular, I like to concentrate on giving to organizations that help children thrive. I also love to work with budding entrepreneurs and business professionals. Additionally, I support efforts that promote human rights, adoptions, and a variety of other causes. As a mom of two beautiful adopted daughters, I’m very conscious of where my charitable resources go.

For instance, I give to an organization called Camp for All Kids. It provides youngsters with the opportunity to go to an overnight camp, which my girls have done many times. I also donate to Enactus, a charity that teaches children about free enterprise and what they can do around the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to judge Enactus competitions, and I’m always amazed at what the college participants do — and forever grateful to play a small part in making life better for others.

Maybe you were introduced to charitable giving at a young age — like I was — or perhaps you discovered it later in life. Either way, as a business leader, you can do so much good in the world. As a CEO, I believe part of my role is to show my social responsibility both at the personal and corporate levels. After all, that’s why our brand supports causes. Despite this passion, I admit that it can be tough to figure out where to devote your company’s resources.

If you’re eager to give back but not sure which charities need your help most, ask yourself the following questions. Your answers will help guide you to the right nonprofits. From that point, the sky’s the limit in terms of when, where, how, and how much you and your team members contribute.

1) Does the charity’s mission align with your brand, your interests, or your experiences?

You’ll feel much more connected to a charity if it aligns with something that matters to you or your corporation. As I said, I am a sucker for a good children’s cause. Nevertheless, not all children’s charities align with my values or those of my company.

Be conscientious when picking the charities that you feel you can most help, because alignment is critical to long-term success and satisfaction.

[Related: Giving - Is It Part Of Your Plan?]

2) How does the charity spend its donations?

This is an essential question, because some charities give a high percentage of donations toward their mission, while others spend a lot of money on overhead and management. You’ll want to know exactly how much of every dollar goes into serving others.

Not sure how to find these facts? Many charities issue annual reports. Others have transparent websites. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with double-checking with CharityWatch, the Better Business Bureau, or other objective sites.

3) Does the charity need help beyond monetary donations?

Do charities need money? Absolutely. However, many nonprofits could also use other help. Habitat for Humanity is a prime example: Without volunteers to build homes for families in need, the organization couldn’t do its work. Similarly, Habitat accepts in-kind donations in the form of equipment, tools, paint…you name it.

Even if you’re in a tough spot and can’t afford to give a lot this year, you might still be able to help a charity. All it takes is an email or phone call to get the ball rolling.

Many nonprofits are in recovery mode after the pandemic, and others have launched to fill gaps for people and communities affected by COVID-19. Now is the right time to get your charitable giving moving, both for your brand — and for your spirit.

Oh, and if you have kids, get them involved! The old saying couldn’t be truer: Charity really does begin in the home.

[Related: Three Ways to Use Philanthropy to Boost Your Career]


Alison Gutterman is the president and CEO of Jelmar, the family-owned cleaning products manufacturer of CLR and Tarn-X products. She began her career at Jelmar in 1993 without a title or a desk, and in 2007 was named its president, bringing the company unprecedented success with her modern approach and leadership techniques. She also balances work with parenthood as a single mother of two children, and she resides in the greater Chicago area.

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