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Four Reasons Every Business Needs a Charity of Choice

Every business, even a small business, even a business just starting out, needs a Charity of Choice. It’s not a scheme to garner charitable credibility. It is a way to hold yourself accountable for working to improve your community while making a living.

In this post, I will go over four advantages of selecting a Charity of Choice for your business.

But first, Waterlink Web’s Charity of Choice

In the spring of 2014 I opened Waterlink Web. From that first day, my company had a charity of choice. For us, it is Friends of Pier Park (FoPP), a nonprofit where I had previously served on the Board and volunteered for a decade. If you want to learn more about my work with FoPP and the part it’s played in my career, check out the About Mary Ann page on my website.

Now it is 2022. Looking back on the progress of both FoPP and my own company I recognize the wisdom of selecting a Charity of Choice and the impact it had on both my business and the nonprofit.

Four Reasons to Have a Charity of Choice

1) It Sets the Standard for Your Company

Holding yourself accountable to your values is not easy. As business owners there are constant demands on our time. But, setting aside a regular time to help someone else or a nonprofit organization, will hold you accountable to a standard and a set of values. 

Even before you are making money you can take a couple of hours each week to volunteer, show up, and start impacting lives in a positive way. 

Mary Ann Aschenbrenner standing by the Pittsburg Steelers "The Standard Is the Standard sign
That’s me outside the entrance to the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room, standing by their “The Standard … Is the Standard” sign, axiom still driving this team.

For Waterlink Web, designing and hosting the FoPP website, scheduling the monthly Board meetings, and sending a monthly email to our members, took only a few hours and cost very little. However, it made a big difference to FoPP. The website alone greatly improved the perceived legitimacy of this small local nonprofit.

Charity of Choice Ideas for a New Business Owner:

  • Volunteer with SMART and help a school child learn to read. Even two hours a week will make a difference.
  • Like sports? Then coach a local youth league … even if you don’t have a child on the team.
  • Volunteer to reach out to houseless people in your community through organizations like the Salvation Army or one of the many others working to encourage and help people break addictions and get off the streets.

Yes, even before you are making a profit you can be making someone’s life a little better.

As your company grows, and you continue to show up, you may find additional ways to donate to or support your Charity of Choice. But the emphasis here is on showing up and making a positive difference with your presence. Waiting until you have reached a “certain level of success” will never give you the same credibility as showing up all along.

Any successful entrepreneur can write a check, but if you have set the standard and showed up from the beginning, even before you had money, your check will mean more to you and the nonprofit you support.

2) Selecting a Charity of Choice Will Stop You From Depleting Your Efforts

As a business owner, you field many requests for support and donations. Give to all and you may give more than you can actually afford. Give to none and you will be failing to exercise that important muscle of generosity.

Volunteers at the Pier Park Pick-Up
Volunteers at the 16th Annual Pier Park Pick-Up, an event sponsored and organized by Waterlink Web

The mental energy required to decide yes or no will only distract you from taking care of your customers and growing your business. But, when you have a Charity of Choice, your answer can always be, “We already have a charity of choice that we support. It is (insert your Charity here).

My experience is that the people requesting a donation will respect your answer and move on.

3) Setting a Standard & Showing Up Will Help Your Business Grow

The websites I’ve built for FoPP (yes, over the years there have been several revisions) become part of my portfolio and, especially at the beginning, helped attract clients of other non-profit organizations who had grants or other funding to pay for their websites.

As your company grows and you donate, for example, books to a classroom or the jerseys for your Little League Team the word will get out that your business supports the local community … and that is the best marketing you can get.

Include your Charity of Choice in your website’s company bio and link to its website. Let your customers know you support this organization. It will show the public what you value and will give your Charity of Choice more name recognition and, hopefully, more supporters.

4) Watch Your Charity Grow!

When it is something you believe in, it is gratifying to see the continued and growing success of your Charity of Choice. Like compound interest, a company’s long-term commitment to a nonprofit will compound the growth and reach of the nonprofit itself.

Since 2014 when I launched Waterlink Web, FoPP has:

  • Become a certified 501(c)(3) with the donated help of a business attorney whose website I also built.
  • Increased its reach and impact with a well-developed Board … in fact, I no longer need to serve on the Board. Others have stepped up!
  • Attracted talent … in addition to a strong Board, we attracted the talent of a grant writer, Stephanie Lamonica, who has helped us win three grants. Those grants, along with successful fundraising, allowed FoPP to purchase over 1,000 native plants for Pier Park!

Keep Showing Up

This spring, working in conjunction with SOLVE, Waterlink Web again sponsored and organized the park’s Earth Day event. Read about our 16th Annual Pier Park Pick-Up on the Friends of Pier Park website. Almost 50 volunteers turned out to pull invasive ivy and blackberry, plant native plants, spread mulch, and, of course, pick up litter at Pier Park.

Trash collected at a recent Pier Park Pick-Up
In 2014 Waterlink Web selected Friends of Pier Park as our Charity of Choice. This spring, working in conjunction with SOLVE, we led the 16th Annual Pier Park Pick-Up.

Selecting a Charity of Choice holds you accountable for continuing to maintain the Standard for your company and for yourself. When looking for a Charity to support, my suggestion is to start local. You can make more of an impact on a small local charity than one with national name recognition. Make sure you believe in its work and mission.

It feels good. It does good. And, when people ask you what you are doing to help the community, you will have an answer.

By Mary Ann Aschenbrenner

Mary Ann is a website designer and developer working with small businesses and nonprofit organizations. She works and lives in St. Johns, a neighborhood in North Portland.

2 replies on “Four Reasons Every Business Needs a Charity of Choice”

Excellent post! All four points are absolutely true–I know this from when I was a small business owner.

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