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Guide to charitable deductions (on a budget)

Want to contribute to the causes you care about, but don't feel like you have the funds? Here are several ways you and your small business can help what you care about, without breaking the bank.

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Our Guide to Charitable Donations for Small Businesses on a Budget

As a small business owner, it can sometimes feel like you have small influence in a big world. Especially if you're a young business, and don’t have the funds to make large financial charitable contributions. However, there's more ways to help the causes you care about besides donating large sums of money. Here are a few ways you and your business can make a big impact on the organizations, creators and causes that matter to you, and possibly earn a deduction on your business taxes as well.

Small Recurring Donations

You might think that charity organizations are only interested in receiving large checks, but advice to nonprofits actually emphasizes that small, regularly scheduled donations are more beneficial than large one-offs. Consider that recurring donors are 42% more valuable than fundraisers, and 440% more valuable than one-time donors. A nonprofit that receives small donations on a regular schedule can run its operations more reliably, rather than rely on single one-off donations that only seem to show up around the holidays.

If you’re like me, you’ve tried to find a few different ways to make your small donations do as much as possible. Even contributing a small percentage of your business’ monthly profits to a charity that matters to you can make a difference. If you'd rather donate a set amount each month, one platform that makes this incredibly easy is Patreon.

Patreon is a great example of a platform designed to spread out funding into smaller, more consistent contributions to keep content creators going strong.

One of the great things about Patreon is that, because it’s a monthly contribution, the creator can depend on the consistency of their revenue streams and the patron can choose a smaller amount to work into their monthly budget.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that content creators don’t make an impact on their audience. For example, various YouTubers have been credited with helping to get teenagers out of hate groups. One YouTuber who started his channel to review video games has several videos about current events with comments thanking him for helping viewers to shift their perspectives on issues like misogyny and racism.

Whatever you pick, don't forget that charitable contributions are tax-write offs for most small business owners-- however you give, be sure to keep your receipts!

Donate Your Voice

If finding room in your budget for causes and content creators simply isn’t an option, those causes can still benefit from your time and attention.

Subscribe/follow people on social media that you see making a difference, and help spread the word by liking and sharing their content on your social platforms-- including those of your business. If you have a brick and mortar store, you can consider posting messages that reflect the values of the causes you care about. Having a business that stands for something political might seem risky to some, but for others who feel they personally align with the politics of their customers, building their business on a political or social change platform can bring about wild success.

Speaking of politics, although presidential elections tend to steal the show every four years, it’s always good to remember that small businesses are especially affected by state and local politics. Consider reaching out to your local representatives about bills they support and contributions they receive. Politicians care deeply about the small businesses in their community, as they bring identity to your neighborhood and keep wealth circulating within their community. Your leaders care a lot about what you think--never be afraid to write them letters or leave them a message about your opinions.

Donate Your Time - To Your Cause or to Other Small Business Owners

Since so many small business owners set their own schedules, it can be easier than you think to donate your time to a cause that you care about. In fact, if you’re looking for a way to donate time year round, you can also apply to mentor established and aspiring business owners who may not have your expertise. This can also be a great way to network, build ties within your local community and develop new skills.

If you’re still looking for the right volunteering opportunity, don’t worry -- there’s an app for that. Golden lets you choose your volunteering opportunities by interest, availability, and more. If you’re interested in something more focused, there are several volunteering apps targeting specific things like sharing surplus food or helping the vision impaired to read mail or navigate new surroundings.

Donate Your Business' Products or Services

I grew up in a small town where a small ripple in the community could make a big impact. One thing that often went a long way when someone was experiencing loss or hardship-- or is even was just trying to organize an after school program-- was when local restaurant owners sent meals. Since the restaurant already has the ingredients and expertise to churn out incredible meals it’s an easier, more cost effective way for them to give back without having to break the bank-- not to mention a great marketing opportunity for their business. However, if you own a restaurant in a larger community with more needs, you might have a harder time figuring out where to focus that giving energy. In that case, you could consider donating food via the EPA, or adding your efforts to the World Central Kitchen.

Of course, you might not work in the food industry at all, in which case you can still volunteer or donate equipment. Anything from gently used medical equipment to unused construction site materials can find new life at reuse centers. You can find your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore or look up your local reuse center. Most reuse centers are locally run non-profits, so it’s important to check in with them about what they accept and the services they offer. For instance, Construction Junction in Pittsburgh can help out qualifying locals with pick ups and consultations.

If you provide a service like marketing, web design, tax preparation or more, considering asking if the charities in your community need any help in that area. They will be so appreciative to have an expert service without dipping into their often limited budget, and it's always great to have more experience on your plate while potentially also receiving a tax deduction for your charitable donation of a service.

Donate Your Old Equipment

Don’t forget that you can also donate almost any kind of vehicle (boats included!) in almost any condition, and various causes will make fantastic use of it. This can really work out to your advantage if you have an old car or truck that needs to go. Most vehicle donation services can pick up the vehicle for you, so you don’t have to worry about how to transport something that may not even run anymore.

Donating old vehicles and equipment is a great practice to fold into your routine because as your business grows, it may outgrow some items that other businesses, shelters and non-profits could benefit from having. Making donations a regular part of your business lifecycle means that growing your business can also help to grow your community. Just don’t forget to save those donation receipts so you can file your taxes accordingly and receive an appropriate charitable deduction.

Donate Your Computer’s Time

Even if you don’t have money, time or equipment to give, you can still help out by volunteering your computer’s spare processing capacity. For example, consider the projects on UC Berkeley’s BOINC program. 

There are a number of causes you can choose through the BOINC site ranging from biomedicine to environmental science. World Community Grid focuses specifically on breakthroughs in medical science. With LCH@Home you can contribute to efforts in advanced physics, with many projects to choose from. Folding@Home is a medical research program at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine that is learning new things everyday about how Covid works and how to stop it. Talk about making an impact.

Whether you can commit to donating a portion of your profits, your spare time, your business’ outgrown gear, your social community or even your computer’s CPU power, there’s a way for even the busiest small business owner to contribute to the causes and organizations they care about.

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