It has become commonplace in the world of small business to consider supporting and associating with a charity. Not only is it a feel-good endeavor but it can also present numerous advantages, such as being a tax break and attracting like-minded supporters. Often, charities selected by spa owners are those they have supported as individuals and now wish to support through their businesses.
If you would like to support a charity but do not have a specific one in mind, here are a couple of essential considerations as well as a few others that should get you thinking carefully about any charity your business publicly supports.
Qualification. Is the organization in fact a qualified charitable organization? The technical term for being qualified by the IRS is whether the organization is a 501(c)(3) organization. This is the section of the tax law that provides standards for the organization to qualify under that makes it a tax-exempt entity and also allows the contributions to the organization to be tax-deductible. There are a number of 501(c) types, including social clubs, business associations, co-ops, and more. Be sure that the entity you involve yourself with is a 501(c)(3) organization and that the organization is able to prove it. You can also go to www.guidestar.org to check a charitable organization and find out other valuable information.
Efficiency. Does the charity spend most of the money and resources it receives on its charitable purpose? You want a charity that reflects your values and desires to be sure, but is the charity using the money it receives to support the cause for which it was designed, or is much of the money spent on administrative and overhead costs? You should ask for this information before donating. Often, there are audited financial statements you can review. Ask questions of the leadership about how it spends the money.
GuideStar is also a resource for financial information and reviews written by those either benefitting from the organization or contributing to it.
Other Aspects to Consider
Alignment. If you don’t have a specific organization in mind, think about a charity that aligns with your industry. For spa owners, this might be one that offers health and wellness services to the poor or elderly. Providing free spa services to those who would otherwise never have the opportunity to experience them might not only be rewarding but also excellent public relations, if properly shared.
Impact. This is not to say that making the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross, or another sizeable organization your focus is not a good idea, but you may want to think about whether it makes sense to focus your efforts somewhere you can have a profound impact on those who benefit from the charity’s efforts. This would probably be a smaller, more specific type of charity. One example might be your local Boys & Girls Club. Yes, they are a national organization, but they have chapters and independent operations in many towns throughout the U.S., and you’re able to help on a local level.
Demography. There is nothing wrong with letting the town or city your spa is located in know that you and your staff are active in the local community. These are where your clients are, so it might make sense to be a part of an organization whose demographics are the same as yours. Which charity would your customer base most likely feel a connection? If you have a great personal relationship with some of them, ask them.
In a perfect world, the charity you are passionate about also happens to be the same as your clients, and thus you can leverage your relationship with that charity for both personal and intrinsic satisfaction. The key is to take your time, obtain input, do some research, and be sure that the organization functions in a fashion that meets as many of your goals as possible. That way, everyone benefits.—Larry Rice
@bio: Larry Rice, CPA, of Rodman & Rodman P.C. (Newton & Braintree, MA), is an accountant and business development guru for a wide range of small to medium business clients, keeping them on track and improving their bottom line. He has been featured on Bloomberg Radio, NECN, CN8-TV, American Express Open Forum, and other media outlets. For more information, visit www.rodmancpa.com.