The holidays are officially upon us. As you begin writing your massive holiday “to do” list, chances are you’re considering what charities you may like to support this season. Most companies face the same decisions, just on a larger scale. But charitable giving is no longer just a holiday campaign. Brands are considering corporate giving on a more significant, ongoing basis to build stronger partnerships and many times, create a better story around their involvement. But where do you start? Whether you have a large community outreach team or one person assigned to doing charity research in their free time at work, it’s important to first consider some key facets of your company to get you on your way.

How do we select a nonprofit organization with so many to choose from?

It’s time to pull out and dust off that company mission statement or corporate values pamphlet.  Who are you and what do you stand for? Are you a company that aligns with women’s issues? Perhaps you sell a product that indirectly (or directly) benefits the arts and education. Or does your brand promote the respect and preservation of the great outdoors? Whatever values and mission you operate within, attempt to draw a line between that and a charitable category. Once you’ve identified the category that most aligns with your brand, start to look at what types of nonprofit organizations may fall into that category.

At this point, it’s good to start researching your charitable options. It’s generally good to consider avoiding religious, political or fraternal charities if your company does not have a general stake in them, depending on what your business entails. Those are charities that many times people prefer to donate personal funds to support.

Learn about the leadership of each charity and how the funds are allocated. If you’re selecting a larger, well-known charity with a large reach, expect that a portion of funds will go toward overhead costs. However, if you want to partner with a company that directs funds solely to the cause, you may need to find a smaller organization or one with less operational costs. A great—and free—resource is www.CharityNavigator.com. Here you can get ratings on organizations, find out more about their mission and learn exactly how your donations are used.

If you have the funds to allocate toward someone else doing this research on your company’s behalf, you may choose to engage an organization that makes it their mission to connect companies and nonprofits.  If you have the funds to engage a company like this, they will take the guesswork out of your process and connect with you on your needs and requests.

Another route to consider in selecting a charity, is to look toward your company’s leadership team.  Many times, the leadership of a company also sits on nonprofit boards that are relevant to their business.  It’s not uncommon for executives to hold a preference for those organizations and to have already made the connection and even a commitment.

We’ve selected our charity. But…should we pick more than one?

Are you a large organization with a national or international reach? Or are you a smaller, family-owned business?  Either way, you are going to want to adequately select a charity keeping that in mind. This is a good time to confirm your budget when it comes to corporate giving.  Many large national or international nonprofits have some pretty hefty donation minimums at even the entry level (if you’re seeking out a promoted partnership with them). They view these donations as corporate partnerships and tout the benefits which include sizeable tax write-offs and digital impressions and visibility on their advertising and marketing channels.

Once you determine how much you can give and your outreach level, think about how active you want to be. Do you want to be a key partner with one nonprofit or “spread the love” with several?  By working with multiple organizations, you can benefit more than one cause in different ways and even in diverse nonprofit categories.  Yet, working with one will pack a larger punch and in the end, providing more funds (or goods) to a single beneficiary.

If you are a larger company, consider the option to engage nonprofits with a tiered approach. You may choose to partner with a national nonprofit but also regional and local nonprofits to support the communities in your backyard.  This will not only reinforce your commitment to corporate giving but also o your community.

How do we get started?

Reach out to the charity you’ve selected to set up a meeting.  Before you meet, decide if you want to work with them on an ongoing basis or a one-off. From there, they can present you with ideas that outline their needs and their timeline. The benefits of working with one—or several—charities year-round are that doing so gives you an opportunity to become a true partner to them which can elevate your brand and echoes the fact that your company has prioritized corporate giving in your strategic planning.

When it comes to the execution of the donation, realize that the end goal isn’t necessarily going to be funds. Many organizations need volunteers or donated goods vs. money. Just because your company doesn’t have a budget allocated for corporate giving doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in this type of giving.  If you are a company who manufactures some type of product- see if that can be repurposed in any way to serve a charity.  Until you ask the charity, you may really never know where their greatest need lies.

Many charities just need manpower and oftentimes, you will find that employees are all too excited to volunteer to assist, especially if encouraged by their company.  It reinforces the fact that their company supports the community and organizations in their region and allows employees to live the mission of the company as well.  If your company has the capacity to allow employees to volunteer during work hours, it’s an even better way to support the charities when they need it—and it’s a great way to support employee engagement.

Likewise, many companies engage their customers in the giving to form a stronger partnership and offer additional assistance to the charity. By doing this, you’ll build a stronger bond with your customers.

Corporate giving programs are as diverse and unique as he companies that host them. There are no definitive rules on how to engage charities with your company yet the rewards for doing so are endless. Engage your leadership and your employees and the benefits you will see in your business and company culture may match—or even surpass—those you are sharing with charities. Happy giving!

Amy Johns is Account Manager at AKHIA.