Turning Our Thoughts to Giving

November 30, 2007 by Eve Tahmincioglu

Lately, the holiday frenzy has made me a consumeraholic.

It's been all about shopping and piling onto my workload so I can make more money to shop more. Got to jam pack the bottom of that Christmas tree. No?

But last week I got to thinking about all the people out there who are struggling after I heard a piece on the radio about how homeless shelters and pantries were thin this year on donations.

I called a local homeless mission before Thanksgiving to find out if they needed anything and was shocked to hear they still needed turkeys to give to families. If anything I figured they had enough turkeys by now.

I decided to send an email out to all my friends and ask them if they were lucky enough to get a free turkey from their local supermarket and if so, would they be willing to give it to me so I could take it to the mission.

I got two volunteers, and my husband and I added a turkey for the cause. We drove to the mission with the kids in tow, and we all felt good to be doing something to help someone other than ourselves.

This haphazard, last-minute charitable gesture worked out ok, but I wondered whether I needed a plan in place for giving during the holidays, just so the crazy weeks didn't get a way from me next time.

I asked a few small business owners if they had a plan in place, and it turns out quite a few do. It's not just the large corporations that structure how they spread cheer among the less fortunate, small firms are also getting savvy about the process.

About 90 percent of small businesses contributed to their communities in some way last year, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

* The estimated average value of contributions is $6,600 per small employer, contributing and not, for a total of roughly $40 billion.
* Seventy-four percent of all small-business owners say that they volunteered for community and charitable activities in the last year.
(The average is somewhat over 12 hours per month or the equivalent of 18 working days per year. Thirty- seven (37) percent who volunteer also hold an office, including a Board position, in one or more community organizations.)
* Groups of employees in 39 percent of small businesses volunteer for community activities on behalf of, or in the name of, the business.
* Seventy percent provided in-kind contributions during the last year. (The estimated median value of those contributions was just over $2,000 per contributor. The average was $4,000.)
* Seventy percent of all small-business owners made direct cash donations in the last year. (The median cash donation was just under $2,000 and the average was about $3,600. About one in 10 donated more than $10,000.)

Take Brightidea.com, a San Francisco-based software company.

Every year, the company chooses a non-profit to contribute to either with time or money.

"Anyone in the company can suggest an initiative, or vote on the initiatives suggested by others," says CEO Matt Greeley. "During the holidays we award the suggestion with the most votes with a budget and people to Make it a reality. Currently there are several proposals related to 'green' initiatives for this year's contest."

Last year, he adds, "we worked with Cancer Research UK, to help raise money, when one of our employees had a close family that had been diagnosed with the disease."

The firm also invests 1 percent of its profits in nonprofits.

I don't know about you guys, but that renews my faith in human beings.

Filed Under: Customer service, Work/life balance, Financing, Back office, Entrepreneurship, Staffing


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