Charity Can Help Bottom Line
BERLIN - It might seem obvious that charitable work or donations to a cause are good things for small companies to do.
But what about the ones that purposefully pair their altruism with hopes of generating new business -does that negate the good will?
Business owners who combine good deeds and good business don't think so.
Rob Basso and his company are deeply involved in charitable work. He has taken part in boxing tournaments and given cash donations to many causes. And he helped to found a network of business people who raise money for charity.
"We've made it part of our marketing plan," said Basso, president of Advantage Payroll Services in Hicksville, N.Y. "It raises awareness for your company, that you are a good charitable player."
Companies with products to sell can get free advertising by donating merchandise. B-tween Productions, which markets Beacon Street Girls books, duffel bags, pillows and other items, donates merchandise for silent auctions. That raises money for charities, but it also helps to create a new audience for the books, which are designed to boost girls' self-esteem.
"We're doing well by doing good," said Bobbie Carlton, the Lexington, Mass., company's marketing director.
Cbeyond, an Atlanta-based voice-over Internet provider, engages in charitable activities and also encourages employees to do the same, giving them $250 each a year to donate to a charity, and also giving them eight hours off a year to devote to charitable activities. Cbeyond also works with the Hands On Network, an organization that coordinates volunteers in a variety of areas.
"It helps our business. ... When you're involved in the community, it expands your world and fills your soul," Chief Executive Officer Jim Geiger said of charitable work. "We have better, more vibrant people in our company."
A company's charitable work can have a link to its business-B-tween Productions, for example, donates books to libraries. But even a cause chosen for an owner's personal reasons can still benefit the business.
Les Kollegian, owner of Jacob Tyler Creative Group, a San Diego-based marketing firm, focuses his company's charitable work on groups aimed at fighting cancer; his family has a history of the disease. "I'm sure that it benefits our business in an ancillary way," he said, but added, "that's not our main purpose."(The writer is a Merrill Lynch senior financial advisor. She can be reached at 410-213-9084.)