How to Give Holiday Handouts

Everyone wants freebies, but you have a business to run. Here's how to manage both.
Magazine Contributor

Sandy Corso's business, Peaceful Co., routinely weaves philanthropy into its day-to-day operations. An online retailer with headquarters in Madison, Connecticut, and about $1 million in sales last year, Peaceful Co. sells environmentally friendly products and donates part of its annual revenue to nonprofit environmental groups. But Corso, 41, says she regularly entertains other requests for donations. "We probably get more requests than most companies," Corso admits. With the business's philosophy displayed prominently on its website, solicitations for worthy causes ranging from school fundraisers to sponsorships pop up all year, but they are especially prominent during the holiday season.

Entrepreneurs want to support great causes and their communities, but there's a thin line between being generous and letting bottom lines buckle under massive requests for freebies. Just like any business practice, giving comes with certain considerations. Lisa Pierce, the National Public Policy Forum chair-elect for the National Association of Women Business Owners, shares some strategies that will help you add a little business sense to your charitable inclinations:

  • First, is the requestor a bona fide nonprofit? If it is, the donation can usually be written off. If not, consider the other possible benefits, like good press.
  • Select a set number of charities for annual donations and screen them in advance. "To be considered for the next year, [tell solicitors,] 'Please send us some information and we will look at it. Someone will contact you if your organization is approved,'" Pierce says.

Corso says donation requests at her company are often served by contributing overstock items or putting applicants in touch with manufacturers. "We stick to our commitment to environmental causes," she says. "But after that, it's often whatever touches your heart."

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