Corporate Social Responsibility is already a prominent factor, or even legislated, in certain countries, and is likely to become an ever more important factor in the wider business environment. Customers are now more informed than ever, and an enterprise which supports the community they function in automatically enhances its brand.
Some ways of doing this have other, immediate effects. How many HR managers take the proximity of a job applicant’s home to the business into account? While qualifications and experience are still important, someone who lives nearby has a shorter commute and is less likely to be late, and more willing to come in for ten minutes on a Saturday.
Give Away Expiring Stock
While claiming this as a tax write-off is questionable, if you deal in food or pharmaceutical wares, you will rarely have trouble finding a charity nearby willing to take nearly unsalable inventory off your hands. Surprisingly, restaurants are rarely able to do this, as they don’t tend to buy or prepare more than they can sell, and their waste is usually unsuitable for consumption.
Acting as a kind of corporate mentor to young people, whether they are close to completing formal training or simply unemployed, not only looks good while costing less than usual forms of employment, but allows you to familiarize yourself with potentially valuable employees while still getting some work done. Depending on your location, part of the cost involved can often be recovered from government.
Use Your Own Output
Even if you offer your products at cost, you’re spending nothing while trimming the markup off some worthy project’s budget. If you offer a service with limited variable costs, all you have to lose is time.
Offer Lines of Credit
While somewhat out of the box – charities are terrible debt risks – funding for many organizations tends to be a feast-or-famine affair, and they can often use a little assistance in smoothing out their cash flow. If the worst happens, a bad loan or account is a tax write-off in much the same way as a straight donation is, while potentially helping the recipient more.
Collaborate With Others
Some synergies are certainly possible. Let’s imagine that you’re a roofing contractor, your neighbor owns a plumbing business, his cousin does flooring, and a local charity can supply free labor: you can do much more together in helping bring a building up to standard than any of you individually. Alternatively, print out a few hundred discount coupons with both your and your chosen charity’s logos on it. When customers redeem them after making a donation, you’re in a sense shouldering part of the cost, but also attracting new business.
Before shaking any hands, you should know that charities are not generally run as businesses, and a different culture applies. Recipients should be aware that you may have to cancel your arrangement at some point with no hard feelings. In one case, a school which received free end-of-life computers from an IT company was unreasonably – and somewhat publicly – shocked when they realized that technical support in perpetuity didn’t form part of the package. Incidents like this can actually harm your reputation instead of boosting it.