Mentor, Michael Folmer Hansen

How can my start-up give back to the community?

Michael Hansen /

Before I start, I can hear you saying, “give back? We haven’t got anything yet to give back. Isn’t that what the large established companies should be doing? We’ll leave that to the big guys. We’re too busy trying to turn a profit.”

 

However, creating a culture of giving within your own company can bring huge benefits, from bringing staff together to raise money for a cause they feel passionate about to publicising your endeavours with the local media.

 

As a start-up, you won’t have lots of cash to give away or time to run charitable programs but here are five ways you can give back without breaking the bank:

 

1. Identify what you can give

 

It’s important to choose a charity that fits with your company’s values. Whether you fund one for the long haul, or choose a new one each year, the charity needs to support a program aligned with your company’s vision and values.

 

Once you’ve chosen the charity you want to give to, what can you provide them with? You may run a marketing agency and be able to work for them on a pro bono basis. Or your start-up might provide software that they might be able to use to help them raise more funds? Ask yourself what product or service you might be able to provide.

 

At Zendesk, we had a few spare desks in our Melbourne office, so we’ve donated these to our chosen charity Dry July. It’s great to be able to share our space with such fantastic people who care about what they do.

 

You can’t help but be inspired by their selflessness. For the Dry July team, they’re happy to have an office they can use, without having to take rental costs out of the funds they raise for adults with cancer.

 

2. Get the whole team involved

 

Once you’ve chosen your charity, get involved in an event together to raise money. This can be great fun and it’s a great team building exercise. Whether it’s a cycle race, a bake-off or abstaining from alcohol for a month, get the whole team involved and have some fun.

 

3. Work with other companies that give back

 

Look at what goods and services you buy and which organisations you work with. Do they support a charity? Do they donate part of their proceeds to charity?

 

There are companies that provide discounts for non-profits or give the funds they would usually receive from a product or service to charity. For example Atlassian offer a starter plan for small teams with all proceeds going to charity.

 

At Zendesk, all of the proceeds from our starter plan ($20 a month) go to our friends at Dry July. So by aligning yourselves with organisations that give to charity and spreading the word about these plans, you’re also helping to give back.

 

4. Donate a portion of profits every year

 

If you are making a profit, then an easy way for your start-up to give back is to donate a portion of those profits every year to your chosen charity.

 

This model works well for start-ups because it’s simply calculated as part of your budget every year and it’s a profit-sharing model that rewards the charity with more funds as your company improves performance. If you go through lean times, the charity gets less but this model also gives that extra incentive to deliver the most growth possible.

 

5. Share your efforts

 

Once you’ve chosen your charity and committed to an event to raise money, publicise your endeavours. Encourage other start-ups to get involved. Perhaps the local media might be interested in your event. Let them know what you’re doing. Host industry events where you invite charities to present, and use social media to share your experiences with charitable giving.

 

You may think you don’t have the time or resources to be philanthropic, but as these ideas show, there are always innovative ways to give back and support our charities and not-for-profit organisations in Australia.

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