Small business and charitable giving

This week the Southeast Cherokee Business Network (SECBN) had a few special guests. The speaker was Misti Martin the Executive Director of the Cherokee County Development Authority which as you may know exists to promote business and economic development in the county.

Misti was gracious enough to take time from her busy schedule to come and address a full house at the Frosty Frog Creamery in Hickory Flat and give us an overview of the Authority itself, its mission, board, services, and a heads up on some of the new businesses moving into the county. We were thrilled to have her visit with us, and hope to spread the word about the Development Authority’s mission.


With all the attention on Misti’s appearance, another special visitor almost escaped under the radar. Seth Tuttle, the Director of Major Gifts for MUST Ministries was also a guest at this week’s meeting. Seth and I were classmates during the 3009 class of Leadership Cherokee and worked together on homework projects, and a project or two for Reinhardt College during his tenure there. I had called Seth to inquire about MUST’s holiday giving programs as the SECBN Board of Directors had discussed getting the group involved somehow.


Seth’s motivation for attending the group’s meeting on Wednesday gave me some food for thought, worth sharing. He said that he is looking to understand how small businesses feel about and integrate charitable giving into their operations.


I was quick to answer that Inspired 2 Design offers a gratis website each year to a non-profit (Drug Free Cherokee and Baby and More Thrift Store were past receipients), and that we offer a large discount to Christian organizations (most recently Cartersville Family Church and The HOPE Center’s supporter site). Neither of these “give-backs” do we advertise (I guess not until now…). And I felt pretty darn good about that.


Afterwards, I realized that there is so much more to Seth’s question than just what have you done or what are you doing. It really boils down to what your core philosophy is based on. And will that core philosophy withhold during good times and bad?


Over the past 18 months or so, small businesses have suffered as well as many large corporations, which trickle down to affect the people right here in your own community. The need is great, and the need is immediate. Another member of SECBN approached me after the meeting to ask how the business sales climate was with companies we have met with lately. The consensus was that generally sales were flat, even some entreprenuers gave up as funding ran out, others are stretching themselves as thin as possible reaching out to touch as many revenue streams as possible, yet there are others who took time off during the worst of the storm but now are beginning to return their boats to the water as the news improves and the market rises.


So, back to the core question… if sales are flat; if funds-r-low; if, as a business owner you’re stretched thin, where and how does charity fit in? As a business owner, your responsibility reaches so far outside your company walls. If you haven’t considered making the investment in the community, now is the PERFECT time to start. Here are a few ideas:


Canned food drive: a local mechanic is offering a FREE oil change if you bring 4 cans of food to their shop. WOW! What a great way to give back AND promote your business. MUST is stuffing over 850 Thanksgiving dinner baskets this year… by the way, they also need volunteers to sort, pack, cook and deliver!


Toy Drive: put a box in your store or office and ask clients to bring a new unwrapped toy when you call to confirm appointments. How easy is that? The MUST goal this year is to give 1,800 kids a gift…


Clothing Drive: ask clients to bring used clothing when they visit you, or better yet, go collect it! Be creative and collect winter clothing, blankets or …


Walk, Run, Golf, Tour… there are tons of options to participate in charity events: get your employees involved and pay their entrance fee, order some custom t-shirts, and reap the benefits of raising money, having fun, AND boosting morale!


Volunteer a Day: give back by offering a day during the week for employees to go to MUST and wrap toys, delivery meals, or work down at the YMCA. NO organization will turn away extra hands.


Your Return Here: what do you do in your business that you can share? Are you an accountant that can volunteer time helping a family review their budget? Do you have a restaurant who can donate free meals to a single parent? Do you take pictures and can you offer an afternoon or two to take portraits and give prints to families who otherwise have never had memories like that? Are you a contractor who can offer repair work to someone on a regular basis?

There is an incredible need, right here in our own community. Surely, as we consider how to grow our business, we should include the fertilizer of helping others as the number one ingredient of success.


You can contact MUST Ministries in Cherokee at 770-479-5397.