Focus your charitable giving to make the biggest difference

When it comes to donating to charity, you have plenty of options — and that’s where the challenge starts.

How do you decide where to donate your money when there are so many worthwhile causes? Nonprofits do a great job of getting help to those most in need, whether it’s those requiring medical support or making sure children have the school supplies they need to be successful.

As a CEO, I’m sure your inbox is stuffed with pleas for donations, both monetary and time or services. All are probably worthy causes, so how do you decide which to give to?

Like anything else in business or life, it’s good to have a plan.

Sure, you could give small amounts to every charity, but how much impact is that going to have? Your money will be spread so thin across so many charities that it will make little difference. That’s why many corporations develop a strategy specifically to handle what kinds of charitable causes donations will be made to, often through a foundation. For example, Wal-Mart focuses on three areas: creating economic opportunities, enhancing sustainability and strengthening communities. These three areas help Wal-Mart focus its charity efforts and make a bigger impact in each one.

Likewise, you should determine what causes you want to support and focus your efforts. A good place to start is your industry. If you’re in manufacturing, you might look at supporting education programs that encourage and help underprivileged students go into science and engineering careers. If you run an accounting firm, you might support financial literacy causes.

Another way to choose is to base your efforts on something that’s personally affected you or your company. For instance, if a longtime employee developed lung cancer, that might be the cause to rally around. Employees will feel a personal connection to the cause and help you in your efforts.

The same thing applies to your personal giving. Consider choosing a specific cause that you support outside of work and channel all your personal giving to that organization.

Regardless of whether it’s charity at your business or at home, the important thing is that you choose a cause; it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. As hard as it can be, you can’t be afraid to say no to some in order to help others. Focus your efforts on your chosen charity or charities to make the maximum impact possible.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc., the publisher of Smart Business magazine and operates SBN Interactive, a content marketing firm.