Most businesses are community-minded. They care about making a difference in the community where their employees and customers live and work. Many times it might be through some in-kind services, a sponsorship or donation or serving on a board.

All worthy and noble efforts. But if you spend a dollar, you’d like to gain at least what you invested, and ideally, even more than that. Your charitable contributions cannot only serve the community – they can serve your business as well.

Remember my mantra: everything you do or don’t do is marketing. That certainly applies in the case of charitable giving, be it your money, talent or time. Every company should have a civic mindset. We’re blessed with a good business and so we should use that business as a vehicle for serving others.  But that doesn’t mean you have to do it in a vacuum or that it can’t be a win-win proposition.

Here’s how you put a marketing spin on your goodness.

Concentrate your efforts: It’s far better to be a big fish in a little pond. Many businesses think they need to spread their charitable dollars, hours and focus on as many non-profits as possible. That’s a very expensive and foolish way to spend those resources. Now you’re one of 20 logos on the back of a T-shirt and getting little to no recognition at all.

Instead, choose a charity or two (more on that in the next section) where you can have significant impact. Be a presenting sponsor or significant donor of a high profile event. If you’re a small company that doesn’t have that sort of budget, then own a specific portion of the event or charity.  Sponsor the finish line of a walk or be their IT partner.  Look for a way to “own” and put your mark on something.

By the way, I’m not suggesting you only support one charity. I am saying, make one your marketing focus. If you want to write checks or serve on the boards of a few other pet charities,  more power to you.

Choose with your clients in mind: Avon brilliantly aligned with the fight against breast cancer. Why? Ninety-nine percent of their customers and associates are women. It’s a cause their audience cares deeply about. You want your customers to know that you understand them and care about their lives and their passions. 

Are your clients people involved in higher education? Maybe you start a scholarship. Do your clients all belong to the same trade association or industry? Perhaps you create a way to spark innovation within that sector. Do most of your customers all live within a specific geography? Ask yourself how you can have lasting impact within that boundary.  

Give your employees a voice.  Odds are, whether you are donating treasure, time or talent – it won’t just be yours. You’ll be counting on your team to help provide the support.  So don’t forget to let them have a voice. The ability to do good on behalf of the company they work for is an important element for your employees of all ages. People want to work someplace that does good, noble things.  

But they’ll be even more invested if they had a hand in selecting the nonprofit or designing your company’s involvement. Create a list of criteria (exposure, ability to own some element of the charity or event, alignment with customers, etc.) so they can help you score opportunities without taking you too far off track.

More and more, consumers are looking to companies to be a active participants in social good. They base buying decisions on it. They use social media to tout it. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to both do good and build a stronger brand.