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The 6 Myths About Giving to Charity with Your Small Business

I know there is a deep desire that grows each day within you to make a huge difference. This butterfly in your stomach was probably born of the same cocoon as your business. Overtime you go to an event or read an article about a social good business, or a local charity, you start to get amazing ideas. You want to help - somehow you know you can. You know in your heart you have the ability to make a difference, and you want to go after it - but you're tired. You're not making just quite enough money yet. And you definitely 100% don't have time. Just not right now. Does this sound about right?

There are some major misperceptions when it comes to having a small business and giving back with that business. I believe that everyone has the power to make a positive impact - even you, solopreneur. Even you, wedding planner. Even you, pottery maker. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. US. Even if our business isn't quite yet making a good healthy profit.

Here is a deep dive into Six Myths that are holding us all back from making the world better with our business: 

Myth One: You don’t make enough money

This is my favorite myth because it’s the biggest inhibitor of people doing good, and once you realize that you don’t have to spend a dime to make a huge impact, you’ll be so inspired. Are you ready? Get ready. If you need to go make a grilled cheese sandwich just to take it up a notch in terms of inspiration, I get it. But I urge you to read on instead:

Just three days ago I was at a gala lunch for an organization that helps former sex slaves get into housing once they’ve been pulled off the street. First of all, whoa. That was a lot to hit you with right out of the gates, but I am in the business of inspiring you to do good, so there you have it. Most women once they have been sex slaves and live with a pimp (yes, that is real) have no where to go to get out of that life. They have no safe place, no money, no family, no doctor, no support.

This is terrible right? It’s horrific. If that moves you, here is a link to the cause I am talking about. Then, read on below.

After two hours at this luncheon with MEGA wealthy family matriarchs on either side of me with their Chanel pearls and Luis Vuitton scarves, I asked this question: “Other than writing you a big check, how can someone help?”

The answer, was not surprising to me but made me SO freaking happy:

“Advocate. Simply talk about this.”

Hold on - I know “advocate” sounds so granola and Green Peacey, but it’s not. It simply means … share about the organization or the overall cause. The number one thing you can do to make an instantly huge impact is talk about what matters to you.

Tweetable! 

Tweetable! 

If you find an organization or a cause or a person or an injustice that makes your heart want to burst through your rib cage, tell people about it. That is how movements start. Create awareness. People have to be aware before they can act. Let them hear your passion and get inspired.

Myth Two: It's going to seem like a PR play

Yes, I know all about Tom’s Shoes and have even blogged about it. I know that some companies that are big and wealthy have royally messed this up. That's a bummer, but we are going to help you NOT do that.

Businesses that have worked with charity to simply get more customers, and to try and fit in are the ones that mess this up. The best example of this is Pink Washing. That’s when every company on the planet starts slapping pink ribbons onto products in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Can you be more of a lemming? If you want to help cure breast cancer do something legit, don’t just throw money at an organization you know nothing about.

So, how do businesses do good and not have this happen? They find their own authentic social mission and work on that every month (or day, or week, or however you decide to slice it).  It is good to want more customers as a result - I’m all about that because it will motivate you to keep doing good and working hard. Just be sure what you are doing is for the good of the cause and the org, and that you do it all the time. Sorry, no one and done situations over here. If that is you - you’re not in the right place and you may end up doing damage to your business and the charity.

If you want to make a real, lasting, meaningful difference then you 100% should and can. This takes me to myth three…

Myth Three: You have to be a social entrepreneur to do real good

You do not have to be the founder of Patagonia to do good things. You don’t have to start out like Whole Foods with a double bottom line. You don’t have to have a one for one business. I think it would be amazing if you did that, don’t get me wrong, but some of us start businesses where we are with what we have. So if you have a small pottery business, make wooden tables for families, sell houses, or are a photographer you too can make a huge difference.

You can start right where you are by finding what your mission is, finding the right partners to help you achieve it, and working on what you’re good at each day to continue to profit doing just what you do now.

Myth Four: Your business has to be fancy/pretty/cool/sexy

Nope. Just, no. You don’t have to be any certain way to make a difference. I’ve worked with meat distribution companies, solopreneurs, roofing companies, realtors, and chefs. Everyone has the ability to make a difference. It’s very Reading Rainbow, I know. But that’s the truth y’all. #micdrop #noexcuses

Myth Five: Charities are too hard to find, trust, and work with

I just took a deep sigh, because I believed this one for a long time. Then, I cracked the code on what questions to ask, and what a good partnership looks like. Win-win is the key to this. Thinking win-win unlocks a good partnership, deep impact, something you’ll advocate for, and a partner who will promote you too.

On the trust front:

There is a bit of a science to this, and it takes a tiny bit of digging, but the financials and programming that non-profits do is all public information. If you want to check on a non-profit’s spending and budget, who their officers are and what they’re paid, you can pull their 990 Form, which is what the IRS receives from them telling them all the info required to maintain their status as a non-profit.

You can also ask anyone working for a non-profit (the Executive Director or Director of Development are top dogs) for the latest audit. This goes DEEP into what they have raised, and how they’ve spent the money.

In terms of finding the right non-profit for you, it all depends on your heart and your business. If you feel you could be ready to dig into finding your social mission and starting the process, click here and be first to know about our online course “Finding your small business’ social mission”.

When working with a non-profit, the biggest misconception is that they need whatever you can give. Sorry Charlie, but that’s not the case. A good non-profit will work with you to make use of what you have to offer (time, talent, treasure), but they also have their own priorities. You need to understand that they have designed a way to fix a problem. In order to be a part of the solution, you need to ask them about:

  1. Their needs
  2. How they measure impact
  3. What their goals are, and how they plan to achieve them
Tweetable!

Tweetable!

From there you can go on to determine if you want to be a part of that, or if you can create a way to help them (or visa versa).

Myth Six: You need to have an innovative way to change the world

No need to recreate the wheel folks. You don’t need to discover something new, or have a monumentally sparkly idea to start making an impact.

Where is your interest? Your heart? Your fear? Do some inside work and then evaluate what your business does. How does it make money? Who does it serve? How can it improve the world?

See what aligns and matches up - as a leader (or THE leader) in your business, what you care about matters. How you show the world and tell the world about your giving is going to be unique to you and your story and your business. If you want to be amongst the many who choose to give back alongside building their business for profit, you need to continue to thrive in a way that is natural for you. You do not need to spend time and energy starting a charity, or discovering a cure for cancer. Create strong partnerships, and make your collaboration the innovative outlet.

Here is an example for you: 

Cheeky, is a brand of disposable plates, cups, and utensils. {Think throw away plates that you use for parties/ when you're lazy} They are committed to giving a meal each time a package of their product is sold. Their brand is so fun though, just like your parties are. The brand is bright and colorful, just like your hopes and dreams. What they are doing different (aside from giving back) is their vision for the brand. Not an invention, and not a cause no one has heard about ... just a great brand that does great work.

These myths surrounding social impact and small business are crippling our progress.

You can give back right where you are, with exactly what you have now.

You just need to invest a tiny bit of time and heart into it to do it right, and you’ll be on your way to making major impact. 

You were built for good, and we can help you do it right.