(adapted from “Philanthropy Do's and Don'ts” by Bill Higgins, from The Hollywood Reporter, July 2011)

For a business, embracing a charitable giving strategy is a simple and effective way to give back to the community. But what’s the best way to start? Here are some simple tips to maximize the usefulness of your donation:

DO: Focus on one issue. Stick to one cause or idea that you can fully support. Avoid trying to help everyone all at once.

DON’T feel as though financial gifts are the only way you are able to give support. Gifts of time, energy, influence, or other resources can be just as helpful. 

DO: Get to know the organization. Connecting with a nonprofit can be a get-to-know-you experience, with an emphasis on learning. Be hands-on and proactive about your organization’s involvement.
DON’T overcommit. Make sure your philanthropic endeavor is sustainable for your business and the organization you choose to support. If you volunteer your time to serve on a board or a committee, ensure you can fulfill all requirements. 

DO: Ensure that the organization you choose has a solid long-term financial plan. Is the charity run like a business? You don’t want to be involved with an organization constantly struggling to survive from month to month.

DON’T jump in by trying to start your own charity or foundation. Choose an existing organization, one that has the infrastructure in place and has already demonstrated an ability to do the work.

DO: Remember that there is a great deal of transparency in nonprofits. Tax records and financial statements are all matters of public record. 

DO: Follow your passion. Support causes or organizations that align professionally with your business and inspire you and your employees personally. It should feel good to give back.