4 Strategies to Build a Stronger Brand Through Philanthropy A philanthropic plan can help charities accomplish their missions while growing your company and your brand.

By Ryan Brennell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Hill Street Studios | Eric Raptosh | Getty Images

Everyone loves giving to charity; no one likes getting ripped off. Fortunately for entrepreneurs, there's a way to approach charitable giving that both grows small businesses and ensures dollars spent actually help the people for whom they're intended.

President Donald Trump's proposed tax plan could reduce charitable giving in America by $13 billion per year. Let that sink in for a minute. On the surface, his proposed doubling of the charitable donation deduction seems like it would increase activity. However, capping those donations at $200,000 per person and lowering the top income tax bracket from nearly 40 percent to roughly 35 percent will more than offset those gains.

When individuals begin to wane on contributions, charities will look to businesses to fill the gaps. Not all of these charities will be legitimate. As each donation becomes more important, givers will need to be more cautious about choosing which organizations to support.

Related: How You Can Identify and Optimize Nonprofit Partnerships

Developing your vetting process.

Thanks to sketchy "voluntourism" practices and the open internet, anyone can throw a few sad pictures on a webpage to tug heartstrings and collect ill-gotten contributions. After Hurricane Sandy struck the U.S., the seemingly above-water Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation was ordered to fork over more than $300,000 in received donations. Crooks will take any opportunity to separate well-meaning donors from their cash.

To make a real difference, you first must understand how to navigate the treacherous waters of philanthropy. Our company, Gladitood, verifies that organizations we work with have their 501(c)(3) status and remain in good standing with the IRS. Campaigning for specific needs helps nonprofits clearly demonstrate their impact and show donors where their dollars are helping.

Related: Why Philanthropy Is Good Business

Developing a thorough vetting process will transform your charity efforts into true philanthropy. While charity is well-intentioned but often misguided, philanthropy requires a focused plan dedicated to a specific cause. That plan doesn't have to cover everything from the first dollar spent through the eradication of the issue -- a simple strategy that includes vetting reputable nonprofits, making regular donations and evaluating their effectiveness is enough. These four tips will help you make the most of your contributions while leveraging your charitable efforts to grow your business:

1. Connect to your conscientious audience.

Businesses today must do good to do well. It's no longer enough to sell a product or service people need. Millennials have buying power, and they want companies to understand the importance of giving back to their communities. According to a study by The Mag, 53 percent of consumers avoid buying from companies they believe have negative societal or environmental effects. When your business focuses on purpose alongside profit, your customer loyalty will grow like you wouldn't believe.

2. Include employees in your mission.

Working for good through your company makes your employees feel like a part of something larger than themselves. Job seekers love knowing that the work they do has a positive impact on the world. Include employees in giving efforts, and provide avenues for them to pursue their own philanthropic goals to make working for your company feel more meaningful.

3. Establish your company as a community leader.

Many entrepreneurs place their headquarters in cities where they feel connected to the community. To become a leader in both your local area and the charitable space as a whole, pick a problem that's meaningful to your community and partner with other local businesses and nonprofits to work on a solution.

Even Google, one of the largest companies in the world, connects to its community through donations to Bay Area nonprofits and young American coders. Smaller companies, such as Pizza Ranch in Orange City, Iowa, can start making a local difference right away.

4. Identify marketing opportunities.

While marketing value shouldn't drive your charitable efforts, you shouldn't ignore the potential benefits publicizing your good deeds can provide. Not only will it improve your company's image, but it could also inspire other businesses to follow your example.

Challenge grants are great opportunities for marketing. Have a nonprofit announce the challenge grant your company has awarded, and set up a crowdfunding campaign with your logo. Donors get to see their contributions have double the impact, and nonprofits earn much-needed funding. Plus, your company is associated with all those positive feelings. Everyone wins.

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Make Philanthropy Part of Your Company Culture

Clothing brand Patagonia took the challenge one step further on Black Friday last year, promising to donate 100 percent of global sales that weekend to environmental nonprofits. The campaign was a huge success, bringing in $10 million rather than the projected $2 million. Patagonia kept its word and gained immense credibility among socially conscious consumers.

You don't have to donate all your Black Friday revenue to make a difference, though. By following these steps to develop a philanthropic plan -- and thoroughly vetting your potential partners -- you can help charities accomplish their missions while growing your company and your brand. Reach out to nonprofits in your community to learn how you can start helping today.

Wavy Line
Ryan Brennell

CEO and co-founder of Gladitood

Ryan Brennell is the CEO and co-founder of Gladitood, a crowdfunding platform that helps nonprofits raise funds for their efforts. Born from a 2012 Startup Weekend pitch, Gladitood helps nonprofit organizations across the globe raise the funding they need to create positive change in the world. In addition to running Gladitood, Ryan has personally helped more than 50 nonprofits complete crowdfunding campaigns. He also sits on the executive committee, serves as the vice president of the board of directors, and heads the marketing committee for Microfinancing Partners in Africa.

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