Corporate Giving Guide: Part 2

Sadie Keljikian and Sara Sobolev, Express Trade Capital

Last year, we released an article about the ins and outs of corporate donations. Here’s a summary of the fundamental points we covered:

  1. Research thoroughly to find responsible, reliable charity organizations.
  2. Find a cause that relates to your industry.
  3. Find a local organization whenever possible.
  4. Give what you can and don’t worry that it isn’t enough.

This year, we’d like to talk a little further about how to choose the right charities based not only on your industry, but on your personal values and where there is most need.

Evaluate Your Priorities

First things first, you need to decide what issues or causes speak most directly to you and your business. If your business has any particular philanthropic drive already, it is obviously wise to stick to that (i.e. if you run an eco-friendly business, it makes sense to donate to environmental advocates). If, however, your business doesn’t have any particular attachment to specific causes or issues, you might want to research charitable activity among your customers and throughout your industry to see where other companies like yours direct their donations.

Consider International Donations

Local charities are always worth investigating, but be aware that your donation may go a lot further is less developed countries. In areas where clean drinking water, food, or clothing is in short supply, small donations of around $20 can feed several families or clothe a dozen children. Again, donating to non-US causes isn’t necessarily better, it will simply go further in many cases.

Check the News

Obviously, the rule that one should donate to charities relevant to their industry still applies, but if there is immense need in a particular geographical location or among a specific group, it is usually a good idea to devote at least some portion of your donation budget to that cause. An excellent example at the moment is hurricane relief in Texas and Puerto Rico. Numerous people are still without homes and institutions are still without power. Fortunately, there are dozens of charitable organizations funneling resources to hurricane relief and directing them where need is greatest. Recent natural disasters are easy choices if you’re looking to spread your donations across a few different charities and aren’t sure where to delegate funds.

Make Your Donation Directly Whenever Possible

Third-party fundraisers can be extremely helpful to charitable causes. Particularly in the age of the internet and smart phones, fundraisers often use celebrities and creative projects (songs, live performances, art installations, etc.) to create a cultural phenomenon around the charity they support. Unfortunately, these third parties sometimes don’t clearly articulate how much of the money they raise actually goes to the charity. With all this in mind, it is definitely wise to donate directly to the charitable cause of your choice

Again, do your research!

One important fact to consider is that bigger or smaller isn’t necessarily better in terms of charity organizations. Larger organizations often have an extensive reach, but may have to use a lot of their donated funds to pay for day-to-day operations. Smaller organizations, on the other hand, usually distribute the vast majority of their donated funds to their cause, but sometimes don’t operate exactly as they say, since it’s easier to get away with fudging some facts when the organization isn’t bringing in significant funds. To reiterate: always research thoroughly when you’re determining a charity or charities to support. Although smaller organizations can sometimes get away with fraudulent funding attribution, checking two or more sites that evaluate charities like the IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check and more (listed in last year’s article) should enable to you seek out the right cause.

A few suggestions…

In addition to the charities we supported last year, we at Express Trade have included a few more in our annual giving this year:

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – A world leader in cancer research and patient care since 1884.

Delivering Good – A nonprofit that collects product donations from the apparel, kids/baby, and home goods industries and gives them to children, adults and families struggling with poverty and/or disaster.

CFA’s Educational Foundation – The Commercial Finance Association’s foundation devoted to educating and nurturing exceptional employees and institutions in the commercial finance industry.

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Choosing Charities: A Guide to Corporate Giving

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

December holidays are a time when many businesses give to charitable organizations. However, in our technology driven, globalized society, giving wisely can be a challenge. While the internet is flooded with opportunities for charitable giving, as we all know, anyone can write anything online. So, how does one sort out the charities that will effect genuine change from poorly run non-profits or outright scams?

With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you donate wisely this holiday season:

1. Do your research.

Unfortunately, there is no substitute for a good background check on an organization before you choose to give.  Fortunately, there are now websites solely devoted to investigating the habits, policies, and practices of charitable organizations and rating them accordingly. These sites consider factors like transparency and salary of the charity’s employees and offer analysis on how each dollar donated is spent. With a comprehensive overview, you can choose charities more easily and make more informed choices.

Below are five sites we trust to evaluate charity organizations (all are publicly funded):

Charity Watchgifts

Give Well

Giving What We Can (a BBB organization)


2. Give back to your industry.

Now that you know where and how to check if charities are going to put your money to good use, you have to decide which causes are best suited to your business. One helpful hint is to give back to your industry if at all possible. If you sell food, give to organizations that fight world hunger or assist farmers in underdeveloped countries. If you sell or finance apparel, give to organizations that support fair treatment of garment manufacturing workers or prevent pollutive practices in the garment industry. Your industry undoubtedly benefits you, so giving back directly is an easy choice that also has the potential to build goodwill for your own company

3. Go local whenever possible.

Most cities and neighborhoods are home to charities that benefit those areas specifically. These organizations are often a good choice because they benefit your local area directly and since they are usually smaller operations, every dollar will have a larger impact on their efforts vis-à-vis dollars given to larger entities. Another advantage is that you can more easily verify the effect of your contributions on these charities.

4. Give what you can.

Just because your business is new and isn’t reaping astronomical profits doesn’t mean you can’t give. Starting small is never a problem and it affords you the opportunity to earn some goodwill and network with other donors early on.

Some businesses commit to giving a certain percentage of their profits, generally between 1 and 10%, annually. This is a simple way to hold one’s self accountable without promising more than is reasonable. Organizations like Giving What We Can (link above) offer the option to pledge a percentage as well as an app to track your donations online, making it easy to keep tabs on your involvement.

With these guidelines, you should be equipped to pare down your options and choose a charity that will make a real difference, address issues that are important to you and your business, and boost your company’s goodwill.

We at ETC truly believe in the power of educated giving. For example, we recently chose to give to Two Ten Footwear Foundation. Two Ten provides financial, social, and educational support to members of the footwear industry, an industry in which we have many clients. The foundation is based in Massachusetts and offers assistance to employees, owners, and family members throughout the country. Their goals are clear and their operations completely transparent. They provide a detailed audit of the last two years of donations on their website, which means that the foundation is very well rated. Over all, Two Ten satisfied all of the important points discussed above and we are proud to support them.

Here are a few more organizations we already support:

Project JUST: A New York City-based organization working for fair, responsible garment manufacturing. They fight for fair treatment and pay for manufacturing workers as well as environmentally responsible practices in the industry.

Fashion Business Incorporated: Los Angeles-based non-profit offering financial assistance and educational opportunities for designers and other apparel startups.

The Sylvia Center: A New York City-based charity helping children learn to cook and eat healthily. The organization focuses on low-income neighborhoods and families with the goal of fighting childhood obesity locally.

Brooklyn Fashion Incubator: A Brooklyn-based funding and networking resource for designers and fashion entrepreneurs, aiming to encourage economic sustainability and nurture creative minds.

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