Bell ringers. Kids going door to door. Countless envelopes arriving in the mail daily asking for your end of the year donations. Even customers and staff get in on the ask.
They all want your charitable donation. They probably all represent excellent causes that deserve your support. But you can’t do it all, can you?
With an uncertain economy looming and more demands than ever for your restaurant’s financial attention, the decision over what to give, how much, and to whom is more critical than ever. Avoid being overwhelmed by the process of charitable giving by following these four practical steps through the end of the year:
1. Don’t be pressured.
First off, stop and take a breath. If you’re feeling pressure from any particular person advocating for a charity, they’re doing it wrong. Giving to charity is meant to be a generous act, and one that is done not out of obligation, but of true desire to help another person, organization, or community in need. Guilt, coercion, or even just frequent nagging are not OK, no matter how strongly an advocate can feel about their charity of choice.
It’s important to feel good about the decisions you make and the charities you support. And that can’t happen if you don’t take time to think them through, properly investigate the legitimacy of the charity, and ask, “Is this important to me?”
2. Think about your brand.
That said, whether a particular charity is important to you personally as an owner or manager should not ultimately be the only consideration, or even the most important. Consider how supporting that charity reflects your restaurant brand and upholds your overall mission.
Think about your menu. Do you emphasize sustainability and locally grown/raised food? Do you put importance on reducing waste by cooking stem to root with produce (or nose to tail with your butchery)? These could be clues to the type of charitable organization that will feel like the right fit for your restaurant and those that frequent it.
Consider your atmosphere and the history of your restaurant as well. Do you have close ties to the community where you’re located? Are you known as a local hangout for police and fire department employees or local grade school or high school sports teams? Do you have long-standing ties to any ethnic or cultural minority population in your city or town? Look to those connections when deciding to whom to donate your restaurant’s time and money — because the work you do there becomes a part of your brand as well.
3. Consult your customers and/or staff.
Sometimes, a second opinion from those closest to your brand can help identify the right charity to support.
Take an informal poll of some of your regulars in the month or two before the end of the year to see what kinds of things are important to the people who drive your biggest business. Not only does it give you an opportunity as a manager or owner to touch base at some tables in the course of a breakfast, lunch, or dinner shift, but it will also impress upon your customers how much you care about their opinions. And customers who feel respected will return loyalty nearly every single time.
Consulting your staff is also a great place to start making decisions about charities to support near the end of the year. A lot of staff could even be interested in contributing themselves — either in time or money — if they feel sufficiently moved by the choice. Be wary of staff members who can be just as overwhelming as fundraisers you encounter from the outside, but overall, you believe they truly get what your business stands for, their opinions can be very helpful.
When you do decide on a charity to support, don’t forget to circle back with all the stakeholders you spoke with (and more) to share your decision. Charitable giving is an expectation most consumers (particularly millennials) have of businesses they frequent, so advertising the donation you make is both smart and practical in encouraging increased loyalty and more revenue in the coming year.
4. Consider the deduction.
Before you absolutely commit to any charity, it’s wise to actually confirm they are a charity. Do a quick web search and take a look at the proposed charity’s website. Is their contact information easily found? Is there a clear indication of what services they use donations to fund?
You can cross-check any charity with two additional tools:
- The Federal Trade Commission registry of fraudulent charities (you DO NOT want to find your charity on this list)
- The Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) search tool (you DO want to find your charity on this list, especially if you intend to deduct costs on your taxes)
There are a host of rules about what is and what isn’t tax deductible for your restaurant business, including some benefits that apply to our industry that individuals and other industries can’t take advantage of. Choosing a charity that can help offset tax burden through deductions isn’t just practical, it’s smart business.
Ultimately, it is important to always consult your account or tax attorney about any decisions that could have financial repercussions for your business. Consulting professionals who know the law inside and out are as important to your financial security as having trained chefs in your kitchen. Their expertise goes a long way toward peace of mind.
Need to get a handle on next year’s expenses before making a charitable commitment? Download our free guide to your cash flow challenges today!
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Rewards Network® does not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.