The concept of businesses giving time, talent and financial resources to support organizations and charities has been around from the time businesses and the recipients of the support have existed.

The “business of giving” to support nonprofits and groups is a good idea. It is important to support organizations that assist people and initiatives that help grow stronger communities. The organizations come in all shapes and sizes and have diverse missions and ways of carrying out those missions.

The groups range from social services to business groups and emergency assistance to long-term care. It is quite amazing how many organizations exist that actively seek support from the business community.

While each of these organizations serves specific areas of need, over time some have broadened their reach and their service offerings. And as their services expand or increase their need for support in the form of volunteer hours, specific support services and fundraising also increase.

The field of need is crowded, and seems to be getting more crowded every year. National charities have the resources to reach a larger audience. The smaller regional organizations can and do have the ability and opportunity to connect on a more personal level.

As a business owner, the choices to support and volunteer your valuable time and resources are as varied as the services the organizations provide. Business owners and employees are asked to financially contribute to organizations, serve on committees or sometimes to serve as board members. These are all solid ways to help to make a real difference in developing a stronger regional community.

With all of the options, choices and various organizations and groups to get involved with, what is the best way to decide which ones to support?

Perhaps the solution lies in creating a strategy for a community support plan. Like a business plan or a marketing plan, a community support plan analyzes and outlines who, what, where, when and how much as it relates to donating time, talent and financial resources.

Whether considering volunteering for a committee of your local Chamber of Commerce or a board of directors’ seat on a nonprofit service organization, a well-designed plan can help.

Here are a few suggested areas to concentrate on when developing a Community Support Plan for you and your business.

Balancing community support and business: Before you can successfully spend time outside your business volunteering to strengthen the community, you need to be able to make sure your business is strong and successful enough to provide the support to others.

• Determine how much of your time, your talent and your resources you can give: This is one of the most important elements to consider. Do not over commit the resources or time you have to give. The only way to understand what you can give is to be realistic about how much of your time and dollars you can afford to support the community. Capture this information regularly and write it down.

• Choosing the right fit for your business: With many organizations competing for your time, talent and financial support, make appropriate decisions when it comes to volunteering and support. Ask yourself, does the mission of the organization or the population the group serves connect or line up in some way with your company’s philosophy, mission or population? As business owners, an easy fit would be volunteering with a business group, such as a Chamber of Commerce. And that is a good idea, but in examining your goals and objectives and needs in the region you do business in, you may find additional nonprofits that meet the criteria. Be sure to update the list of the groups you support.

• Determining goals of community support plan: You should never enter the business of giving with the thought or expectation that you will or potentially will receive some benefit in return. This is probably one of the biggest missteps when it comes to businesses supporting community organizations. The goals and objectives you should consider as part of the plan should be based on outcomes. For instance, how many hours will be dedicated volunteering, how many dollars are budgeted to give, and what fundraising efforts your business will undertake beyond events or efforts the organization is doing to build resources? Also determine if you are planning on identifying key people within your company to lead the community support activities. Do your best to track and measure the time and effort as well as the impact of the support you are providing if possible.

The needs of the organizations that support people and businesses of our community continue to grow. Creating a plan that will allow your company to become more efficient and effective in giving is an essential part of running a successful business. Create a stronger community by creating a Community Support Plan for your business.

Looking for some direction for organizations, groups, nonprofits or other avenues to volunteer time or donate some resources? Here are a few that you may or may not be aware of that may fit into the Community Support Plan for your business or organization:

Avanzar (formerly The Atlantic County Women’s Center), Alcove Center for Grieving Children & Families, the American Red Cross, Atlantic City Arts Foundation, The Arc of Atlantic County, Atlantic City Rescue Mission, American Cancer Society and the Relay For Life, Atlantic Prevention Resources, Angels in Motion, Beacon Animal Rescue, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, Bay Atlantic Symphony, CASA of Atlantic & Cape May County, Career Opportunity Development Inc. (CODI), Cape Atlantic CATS, Caring For Kids in Cape May, Cold Spring Village, Community FoodBank of Southern New Jersey, Covenant House, CROPS, the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation, Diabetes Training Camp, Earth Angels for Dementia, Eastern Service Workers Association, FACES 4 Autism, Field of Dreams, Funny Farm Rescue, Gilda’s Club South Jersey, Habitat for Humanity, Heart of Surfing, the HERO Campaign, the Humane Society of Atlantic County, Love of Linda Cancer Fund, Lunch With Lynch Foundation, the Leadership Studio, Matthew Bee Foundation, Nothing Down, Ocean City Humane Society, ThumbsUp4Kindness, United Way and Vagabond Charities.

Happy Giving!

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