How to get Your Business involved with a Not-for-Profit (5 Easy Steps)

It’s nice to know that you want to do something to make the world a better place. It’s a great feeling. But then how do you do it?

Here are some key points which are the first things you can do to create something long lasting and sustainable for your business.

  1. Find an alignment in purpose

The first thing to do is to figure out what cause your business is naturally aligned with. If you are business that is food based, then maybe food based charities are your thing. Do you provide education and training? Then maybe causes around education would fit. Are you in the health field? Then something health related. Do you help businesses grow? Then definitely Opportunity International and microfinance are for you.

If you are unable to find an easy fit, take some time to think about what will connect with your business as a whole. You can select something that you care about individually but that will most likely end up becoming your own thing that may not create buy in from other staff. Plus, if you ever leave, your passion for that cause goes with it. Finding a solid alignment in purpose will create a long term relationship with a charity and long term solutions with impact.

2. Work out what your impact will be and how you will measure it

What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? Be specific about it and outlandish. I know of people who want to help 1 million people out of poverty or become a millionaire of souls. Once you have your numbers, figure out exactly how you will measure that.

3. Choose an organisation that will fit

Now is the fun part. You get to choose an charity that is working in the area you are interested in, can facilitate the impact you are after, can report back on that impact and are willing to work with you to help make it a reality. There are quite literally, thousands of charities to choose from, so you get to shop around.

4. Create a plan with that organisation

Put something in writing. Not only does that help make it official for you and your business but it also lets the charity know that you are in it for the long haul. It is very helpful to be specific about how you are going to achieve the impact you are aiming for. Without a plan, your impact is just a bunch of meaningless numbers. Any charity worth their salt will help you with this process.

5. Stay Connected to it

This is done through ensuring the plan and goal are connected with your business by keeping it somewhere we people (yourself included) are going to see it. Create a tally to update, keep information available to all staff and ensure the charity are regularly in contact with you. Invite them to the office to chat to the staff – we love that stuff!

Doing these five things will set you up to create a meaningful connection with a charity, and help you with your greater purpose of making a significant positive impact on the world.

3 Reasons Why Your Business Should be Involved with a Charity

Whether it is your own business or you are working for someone else, here are three benefits for supporting a charity, with 1 proviso:

  1. Good for your staff

We know that today, more than ever, business employees are looking for much more than a pay-check to take home. They are looking for career advancement, flexibility, autonomy and purpose. A great way to assist employees to find their purpose is to align with a charity through generosity. That way, your staff know that as they help the business grow and become more profitable, they are creating a positive impact on the world as you donate some of the profit to a worthy cause. This can provide your staff with a greater sense of pride, well-being and team cohesion just by turning up to work on Monday morning.

2. Good for your customers

Having an intentional alignment with a charity can positively impact your customers as they understand that just by making a regular purchase they are also impacting the world positively. Like employees, customers are looking to do much more with their purchasing power and showing them that your business is good for the world will assist them in finding some purpose in their daily life.

3. Good for your business

Good news and positive experiences are some of the best marketing tools as word of mouth spreads. Making a positive difference through a relationship with a charity is good marketing material as existing customers notice it, get excited about it and entice new customers. It is also extra social media content for you as you highlight the charity that you support.

Plus it will also bring good staff to you as potential employees see the relationship with the charity as the point of difference between your business and others in the same industry.

Proviso: The charity that you choose has to be aligned with your values. It cannot be something that you do just get good press, people will see through that very quickly. The key is to build a relationship authentically with a charity that can grow over time and show real impact.

Handling Rejection

I hear no quite a bit.

I work for a charity and I ask people to give generously to that charity. If I am doing my job then people will say ‘no’ to me on a regular basis, to either meeting with me, coming to an event, or being generous financially. I get ‘no’ on a much more regular basis than I get a ‘yes’, and it can hurt. It can create doubt and fear and a sense of rejection. To not go crazy, I choose to approach this ‘rejection’ with a particular mindset.

A while ago I spent some time working in radio and at the time (things may have shifted a little now) the adage was that someone needed to hear an advertisement 7 times before they decided to engage with it. Essentially, on average, it takes time for people to get comfortable with a message or product before they start to build trust and get to the point where they look at buying or connecting.

I now take the same approach with every conversation I have with someone or when I speak at an event. I talk proudly about Opportunity International and how we are ending poverty but at the same time I recognise that it could be the first time that someone has heard of the organisation and what we do, or the first time they have heard about giving to charity. I can’t expect them to jump on board straight away, but this is the first important step. It could also be the third or fourth time, or it could be the seventh time and they say yes and support generously. It just depends on the person and their journey.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have had people tell me that they have heard me speak a few times before and now they are ready to support.

If people say no to me, that’s okay, it’s not the ‘seventh’ time for them yet. My job is to keep the relationship going so they can get to that point.

I also know that some people will never come around, that’s okay too. They are on their own journey and whilst I believe being generous is good for everyone, we all have to come to that place in our own time and on our own terms.

Charity Begins at Home

I’ve heard it so often. From so many people. Different types of people.

Amazing, thoughtful, loving people.

Angry, selfish, arrogant people.

Some are unwilling to even contemplate a different point of view and others almost make the statement as a question. ‘Charity begins at home…doesn’t it?’.

I don’t disagree with the statement. I’ve been a proponent for international aid and development for 15 years. I think we have a huge responsibility to our world for a number of reasons. But I’m not heartless. I care about those who suffer here in Australia. I care about those who are sick, hurting, homeless and living in poverty. And so, yes, charity does begin at home. But it does not end there and it certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t provide assistance for those suffering internationally at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I often forget just how amazing life is here in Australia, just how great certain parts are. I was having a conversation with someone who migrated here over 10 years ago and when they visited their home country recently they were shocked by how unsafe they felt. Life in Australia had dulled their senses and they forgot that going about life without looking over their shoulder or trying to spot danger at every turn, isn’t normal. But it should be.

I’m not saying that every other country is unsafe, nor am I saying that Australia is perfect and nothing bad ever happens, but what we have here is a gift. A gift that we have done nothing to deserve, and one that I believe comes with a responsibility. Let’s support charity at home and everywhere else.

Charity Case

Asking for help can be one of the most difficult things to do. It requires us to put our need out in the open and be vulnerable about a short coming we have.

In a world that seems to value independence, creating our own path and not needing anyone, asking for help is a sign of weakness and vulnerability is a dirty word. So those that do ask for help are seen as lazy, unable to help themselves or even called a charity case.

That’s an interesting term. In our language today it is a negative phrase that we use to put people down with, to write them off and not have to think too deeply about what is happening for them. But its true meaning is basically someone in need of help.

I am going to say, even at the very least, we all need the help of someone else once a year. It’s most likely much more often than that, once a month, once a week, probably at least once a day.

Why do we carry shame around that?

Shame is about fear and judgement based on the idea that being in need is weakness. But I see that asking for help is the most courageous act a person can be involved in.

I speak to many people who are generous to organisations that assist those in great need, not because they judge the recipients, but because they have been in a place of need themselves, or can at least imagine what it would be like, so they give.

Being in need is not a sign of weakness. Acknowledging need and asking for help is a sign of great strength.

Charity Fatigue

Do you ever just get sick of hearing about it? All the need in the world? The poverty, the incurable diseases, the ill-treatment of animals, the sadness?

Bad news has that impact. Just like the oceans waves wear down the rocks on the shore over time, bad news can wear us down to the point where we just don’t seem to have the capacity to deal with it any more – so we shut it out.

This is what some would call charity fatigue. Which is a little deceptive because the fatigue is not about the charities themselves, but the major issues these charities fight against. It’s more like, bad news fatigue. If we shut it all out and don’t face the bad news, then we can miss out on being involved in some great things that are happening in our world. The shadow proves the sunshine (according to Switchfoot)

How do we fight against charity, I mean bad news fatigue?

  1. Look for the good things that are happening all around us. There is always something good happening if we look hard enough.
  2. Recognise that you cannot save the world, but God calls you to play your part – this is His gift to us
  3. Find what you are passionate about – invest yourself whole-heartedly into that.
  4. Trust that God is at work, even when you are not. He will find others to invest themselves whole-heartedly into the areas that you are not passionate about.

How Much Does That Cost?

How much do you spend on administration?

You know the question, you have possibly asked it before. How much of a donation to a charity gets spent on the programs and how much gets spent on staff and other back end costs. It’s a question I hear frequently about the organisation I work for and for every other not for profit in existence. It’s an important question because we need to be open about this, but it can’t be the only question we ask.

A colleague of mine, many years ago would ask people if they were needing life saving surgery would the most important question to the surgeon be about how much they charged or would it be about their success rate? Of course the response was that the success rate was the main thing people are interested in.

There are many organisations that people donate to that are quite literally saving lives around the world and how often do we ask about the success rate they have?

There needs to be a balance between the two, naturally, but the success rate should be just as, if not more important, than the administration rate.

Effectiveness in the work a not for profit does is not just about keeping costs low, it’s about having the greatest positive impact on our world.

Why Do You Keep Asking?

If you have ever given to a charity before, you will know that once you give they will ask you to give again. Sometimes it can become overwhelming as they seem to be like a dog with a bone, asking and asking and asking. Add to that, if you give to more than one charity then it gets multiplied to numerous asks. You can feel as if you are at the mercy of interrupting phone calls, excessive emails and piles of mail at your door step.

Everyone wants charities to spend their money wisely so that as much money as possible can go to the projects they run, and believe it or not, when they are asking you for money again, that is the wisest use of their finances.

It comes down to basic marketing. It is commonly known that if you ask someone who has never been a customer of a particular business before, to become a customer there is a 5-20% chance that they will. If you ask someone who is already a customer to become a repeat customer, there is a 60-70% chance that they will.

It’s the same with Charities. It is much more likely for someone to give to a charity if they have supported them before and much less likely for someone to give to a charity if they have never supported them before. Essentially, it is smarter and financially wise for charities to spend time and money engaging with existing supporters.

In saying that, you are in control of what you receive from them – if you don’t want them to send you mail, emails, or to phone, tell them that. It saves you and the charity time and money, which is an extra donation to them.

How Do I Fundraise?

Often people will ask me what the best way is to raise money for their good cause.

I’ve been working with not-for-profits for 20 years and have seen countless numbers of fundraisers – some which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and others which raised less than one hundred.

Whilst there is no secret to success, there are two things which are very helpful when holding an event of fundraiser.

Firstly, be persistent. Persistence is the outworking of passion. If you are passionate about something then you will be persistent in what you do. Just because you have asked someone to attend or donate or sign a petition once, it doesn’t mean that they are aware or fully understand what you are trying to do.

Secondly, be very clear with what you are asking. If you want someone to attend an event, tell them that is what you want them to do. If you want them to donate, make sure they know that, and how they can do that. If you want someone to sign a petition, make sure they know how and where and why.

When you are persistent and clear, it invites people to enter in and participate in what you are trying to achieve. When they say yes, they know what they are saying yes to, or if they say no, it is an educated no which is worthy of respect and allows you to move on to the next person.

How to Ruin Your Whole Day

“Don’t read the comments.” It’s something I say frequently to my wife, especially when reading an article online on a topic that she cares about. Even just a short amount of scrolling through the comments is enough to ruin your whole day. People can be incredibly mean-spirited about any issue and are quick to come up with witty remarks to discredit and embarrass. It’s just easier and less taxing to not engage in it.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take my own advice and it just about did ruin my whole day. I was reading an article about Andrew Forrest and how he made the largest philanthropic donation in Australian history. $400 million. Unbelievable. To a number of different causes which is ultimately going to impact thousands, if not millions of people. This was a day to celebrate with joy and laughter. But then I read the comments.

Andrew was accused of many things and hatred was heaped on him about issues of tax evasion right through to grandstanding. All I felt was sadness. Now Andrew is a big boy, he can look after himself and I don’t think comments on the internet will have an effect on him, but my sadness was more about the state of our culture and how we respond to people doing good things. Again we see the pervasive tall poppy syndrome rearing its ugly head, as attempts are made to tear down anyone who shows any sign of leadership or a desire change the world. I hate that part of our culture. We complain about a shortage of strong leaders in politics and business, but we kill them off before they have a chance to develop. Surely there is a way we can foster an environment where we can develop strong leaders without expecting perfection or begrudging them when they are doing well.

No living person in the history of Australia has done anything like this. It is without precedence. But at the same time it is not an isolated event. There are a number of wealthy Australians who give consistently and generously, but they like to fly under the radar. We wish that they wouldn’t. Generosity is something that we should celebrate. The more we know about it the more we can celebrate it and normalise it. The hope is that because Andrew and Nicola Forrest have opened up about what they are choosing to give away, others will begin to do the same. The more we can normalise generosity, the more generous we will become and that is how we change the world.