Opinion Column

How your business can do 'good' close to home

By Larry Schruder, The Delfi Group

There is increasing attention in business to the concept of Social Responsibility - the importance of all businesses, large and small, to do "good" in their communities while striving to do "well" in their business.

We want to explore this concept a little further in today's column and leave you with some thoughts on ways that you can be strategic about your donations of time or dollars - and really make a difference in the local communities that you rely on for your business success.

Canadians are amongst the most generous givers in today's world. And as a result, our mail boxes, both Canada Post and electronic, are regularly filled with professionally-prepared marketing materials soliciting our support for their cause. We all have drawers filled with address labels, key chains, greeting cards, and other "gifts" offered by needy agencies and causes hoping to be more successful in the ever-crowded competitive drive to secure a portion of our generosity. Some of these are large Canadian campaigns for funds - others portray international pain and suffering and ask for our help. These are almost always legitimate worthwhile causes and worthy of consideration in our giving - but the net effect is that our local community causes often take a back-seat in our giving programs. Local community causes seldom flood our inboxes or mail boxes with glitzy materials - and out-of-sight , out-of-mind takes its toll.

Today, Delfi challenges all of us - as business owners or as individuals - to review our 2015 charitable donations as the receipts arrive in our mailboxes - and take stock of how we allocated our charitable donations this past year. If possible, we should challenge our level of generosity to ensure that we are comfortable with the amount of our sharing with others. But much more importantly, we should do a quick tally on the amounts that we have donated to causes with a strong local impact, versus the amounts to more distant causes. A personal guideline that I strive to live by is the 50 per cent rule. Fifty per cent of your generosity (in either time or dollars) should be directed at causes that directly impact the life experiences of someone close to home.

You do not have to look too hard to find local needy causes to support. There are homeless people living in our own communities. Food banks are a fact of life in most of our towns and municipalities. There are several community meal programs feeding the hungry, multiple nights every week. There are children walking into our schools every morning with little or no nourishment in their stomachs since the night before. There are elderly people in need of support "¦ there are hospitals in need of new equipment"¦ there are local people in need of additional supports to access costly medical programs - there are youth without a supportive home life to enable their successful transition to adulthood. These are not international stories that you will see splashed across the television screens - they are human stories that exist every day in Renfrew County - and frankly in every county across this province and country that we so proudly call our own.

Then, when you get this 50 per cent local donation guideline in place, consider a second application of this rule. Pick a local cause that you really believe in, and strategically plan to donate up to half of this local allotment to really start making a difference for this cause. Get to know this organization better - understand what their needs are - publicize to your customers that you are a proud supporter of this particular local cause - share their informational materials with others around you. Be creative with your methods of support. Look for opportunities for engaging your employees in fundraising activities for team-building benefits. Find your own way to "lead rather than follow".

And here is a challenge to myself and to all of you. Consider enrolling in - or starting - a monthly giving program for your favoured local charity - a simple means of making an automatic monthly giving amount to one or more of your favoured local agencies or causes. This technique was long ago perfected by various international foster children programs. There are many people in our communities that have continuously supported one or more children or families around the world for years - for a small monthly amount that we never miss. We need to help grow the local opportunities for such monthly giving programs as a means of being more strategic in how we spend the 50 per cent of our charitable donations that we hopefully now commit to provide locally.

If more and more businesses take up this "local strategic giving challenge" we will make a greater difference locally in our communities - and, in addition, get a better emotional return on our giving. Remember - by doing "good" while doing "well" - and leading rather than following - small businesses like yours and ours really can make a difference close to home.

Larry Schruder is president and co-owner of The DelfiGroup, Pembroke and can be reached at larry.schruder@thedelfigroup.com.