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Give and Receive When done right, corporate charitable giving can boost company morale and exposure--as well as your bottom line.

By C.J. Prince

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To many entrepreneurs focused on keeping costs down and milkingevery cash-flow dollar, corporate giving programs sound like aluxury they just can't afford. But in today's competitiveenvironment, corporate charitable programs and partnerships may bethe cheapest strategic competitive edge you can get--not to mentionthe satisfaction they can bring.

According to the "2004 Cone Corporate CitizenshipStudy" conducted by Cone Inc., a Boston-based strategicmarketing firm, 8 in 10 Americans say corporate support of causeshelps earn their loyalty to a business; that represents a 21percent increase since 1997. The study further found that 90percent of respondents would consider switching to anothercompany's products or services because of illegal or unethicalcorporate behavior. And younger Americans, ages 18 to 25, weresignificantly more likely to consider a company's corporatecitizenship when deciding whether to buy from, or work for, thatcompany.

While most of the talk surrounding brand loyalty tends to focuson bigger companies, the underlying trend is equally significant,if not more so, for small businesses, says Mary Fehlig, presidentof the FehligGroup, a Washington, DC, consulting firm that helps companiesimplement socially responsible business practices. Says Felig,"If 8 out of 10 people say they'll switch vendors based ona company's reputation, that's as true for the local cornerstore as it is for Coke."

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