By Alyssa Gregory

How I Plan to Incorporate Philanthropy Into My Business

By Alyssa Gregory

There are a few times during the year when most people think about doing good solely for the benefit of others. The holiday season, for example. I think it’s great that so many companies, individuals and families get inspired during the holiday season to stop and give back. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we could hang onto this desire to help others all year long?

I would venture to guess that almost every one of us wants to be philanthropic, but I also know that there are a lot of excuses that stop us from taking action. In fact, I’ve made many excuses myself: It’s not in the budget; I have no extra time; I don’t know how to give; I don’t know who to give to.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about ways that I can incorporate philanthropy into my business so it becomes an ongoing and intrinsic part of what I do. Here is a look at the thought process, brainstorms and ideas I’ve been kicking around.

What does philanthropy mean?

I started the process by looking at the term “philanthropy.” Philanthropy is the desire to improve the lives of others through monetary or physical donations and other charitable actions.

These days, when we think philanthropy, we tend to think big movements such as the Giving Pledge, which has received quite a bit of news coverage for the billions given by the wealthiest of the wealthy. This is commendable, absolutely. But it doesn’t translate well into the everyday lives of freelancers and small business owners. In fact, it almost makes it seem like being philanthropic in a meaningful way is unachievable.


What does philanthropy mean to me?

I had to think hard about what I wanted to achieve by becoming more philanthropic. This is what I came up with:

  • I want to give consistently to one or two causes that are relevant to me.
  • I want to make financial as well as other charitable donations.
  • I want to tie my actions to a part of my business.
  • I want to be able to choose giving activities that I feel will really make a difference but are not out of my reach.
  • It’s important that I ensure that I am giving for the right reasons.

How can I be philanthropic?

The hardest part of this process for me has been identifying ways to incorporate philanthropy that are realistic and truly worthwhile for those on the receiving end. Here are some of the ideas I’ve been contemplating and a few I already do.

  • Volunteer my time to support local charitable organizations by writing marketing copy, designing marketing materials, etc.
  • Mentor an up-and-coming entrepreneur as he/she gets started
  • Give away some of the intellectual capital I have developed (books, reports, training materials, etc.) to those who can’t afford to purchase it
  • Donate to the scholarship program at my alma mater
  • Offer to teach business classes at the local community college
  • Make quarterly financial donations to a specific charity

Right now, I have begun a few of these activities, but I’m still working on developing philanthropic goals that will tie it into my business more closely and consistently.

Do you consider yourself philanthropic? I’d love to hear what you think and if you have successfully incorporated philanthropy into your business.

Image credit: lusi

  • I am a freelance solo web designer, but I do give philanthropically. For example, I have donated $25 (that is all that I can afford, and that’s ok) to the Alzheimer’s Association. And I am participating in their fund-raising memory walk.

    I promote philanthropy by putting a banner ad on my site and a forum signature link informing people that September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day. In the ad, they will find a link where they can donate online directly to the Association.

    Sadly, I find that no one is making any donations in this economic climate.

    Another idea is that I provide special discount pricing for selected projects. Then I tell the client that this is one-time special pricing and is not my typical pricing nor my typical rate in the future. Then when they ask why? I tell them I am giving this special price to highlight the fact that sometimes it is good to be generous and suggest that they donate to this or that organization. I have not tried this second idea. Not sure if it would work.

  • Around ten years ago we had a couple of really big accounts and were doing well but on a daily basis we saw a lot of (street) people who weren’t doing well for one reason or another. We were lucky enough to find a non-profit that’s mission was to grant enterprises that help these people get back on their feet. We did a full branding package for them and provided a couple of years of graphic design and web development pro-bono. After a while they decided to put us on retainer so we found another non-profit that helps kids in impoverished neighborhoods by keeping schools open through the holidays and on weekends as a safe place for them to be. We’ve been working with them (pro-bono) for about 7 years. We’ve also got a couple of other non-profits we help out with either with donations, pro-bono work or work-in-kind donations.

    It can be pretty refreshing : )

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