Wise Giving Wednesday: Advice for Small Businesses

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calendar icon May 19, 2021

Across the U.S, as communities experience the lift of restrictions on businesses, restaurants and public spaces, they are likely to see the resurgence of charity fundraising activities. In anticipation of this growth, BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips for small businesses as they consider requests to help a variety of charitable efforts.

First, Check Out the Charity
If a small business agrees to place a charity fundraising item in their store or parking lot, patrons are likely going to assume that the retailer has checked out the charity and verified its validity. This is all the more reason for businesses to check out charities at Give.org or with the BBB serving their area to see if there is a report specifying that the organization meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. At a minimum, one should verify that the organization is registered to solicit in the state. About 40 states in the U.S. require charities to register with a state government agency usually a division of the Attorney General’s office or the Secretary of State’s office. In Canada, check with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Canisters, Coin-cards and Candy Boxes on the Counter
Probably one of the oldest charitable giving traditions, is the slotted, tin-canister placed on a retail counter or its cousin, the coin-card, where donors can insert their change for the specified charitable group. Businesses should make sure the promotion clearly identifies which charity is being helped, the organization’s mission, and a place to get more information such as the charity’s website. Businesses should also make sure there is a clear procedure specified about who will be responsible for sending collected funds to the organization, with what frequency and who to contact if a problem comes up about the fundraising.

Clothing Donation Bins in the Parking Lot
If a charity wants to place a large, metal clothing donation bin in the parking lot or other accessible area for patrons, this request should probably get scrutiny for a number of reasons. Unless told otherwise, donors may assume that contributions of used clothing will be shared with needy families, the reality may be quite different. In some cases, collected clothing may be sorted and sold in thrift stores, sold overseas, or turned into rag-bond paper. The business should ask the requesting charity for details about how donations will be used and make sure that the bin clearly labels the charity’s name and where to get more information. Responsible groups also will post information on the bin about the nature of the programs being supported. Perhaps, most importantly, the business should ask the charity about how often the bins will be emptied, and who to contact if donations begin to spill over the top. A messy collection bin can be an eye sore for patrons and will likely reduce the incentive of others to participate.

Cause Marketing Transparency
Some retailers may seek to promote consumer traffic by engaging in promotions that promise an announced portion of sales will be contributed to a specified charity. If so, see the previous blog which discusses this type of fundraising. Among other things, businesses should make sure they obtain written permission from the selected charity to use their name and include a disclosure in advertising that specifies the actual or anticipated amount of the purchase that will help the charity (for example, 50 cents for every meal purchased at the restaurant will be donated to ABC charity during June up to $1,000.)

These are just some of the fundraising approaches that businesses may be asked to support. If handled responsibly, this can be an opportunity to help charities, generate goodwill and expand community outreach. For additional, help and guidance, visit Give.org or the BBB serving your area at the bbb.org website.

Video of the Week

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video interview with Darlene Allen, CEO and Executive Director of Adoption Rhode Island, a BBB Accredited Charity that finds forever families for children in state care and provides support throughout the adoption process such as child, youth and family support services, education, training, advocacy and referrals.

Heart of Giving Podcast

This week’s Heart of Giving Podcast features an interview with one of the most respected philanthropic leaders, Hilary Pennington, the Executive Vice President of Programs, Ford Foundation. Tune in to learn about the Ford Foundation's work. As noted by Ms. Pennington, “Leaders [who have been on the margin] have a unique diagnosis, not only of what needs to change, but of the future they want to build.”

Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to give.org/charity-inquiry if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance


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