‘Tis the season for giving, and as 2020 nears its end, the needs in Shreveport-Bossier are greater than ever.
Currently, 6.9 percent, or around 11 million, US citizens are unemployed or underemployed, which is double what it was in December 2019. That means that the need for assistance has increased, and nonprofits in the area are looking for help.
While many businesses across the country have also been hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still ways that local business owners can help this year.
Erin Smith, Director of Development for Catholic Charities of Northwest Louisiana, said that businesses can give monetary donations in one sum, monthly monetary donations, in-kind donations, or volunteer their time.
“And we understand that, especially right now, businesses may be wondering just where their money is going, so I encourage people to research the nonprofit or charity they are considering donating to. There are many ways to give, and money is just one way,” she said.
And while donating to a worthy cause is a great thing to do, it can also come with some big benefits for businesses.
One benefit, of course, is in the form of a tax deduction. Tax-deductible donations include sponsorships of charities or events, donations of goods or services and cash donations.
The CARES ACT provided increased tax incentives for charitable giving for individuals and corporations.
The adjusted gross income (AGI) limit for cash contributions from individual donors is now 100 percent of their AGI (increased from 60 percent). Businesses can get deductions on charitable donations of up to 50 percent of their AGI. The AGI limit for cash contributions for corporate donors went up to 25 percent of taxable income (increased from 10 percent).
In some cases, businesses may be able to claim volunteering expenses as charitable contribution deductions on income taxes. Mileage driven to and from volunteer work, as well as the cost of materials purchased for volunteer projects can all be itemized for tax deductions.
In order to deduct donations, businesses should work with a nonprofit organization that is approved by the IRS and have that charity or nonprofit issue a tax form that they can file with their tax return.
Another great benefit to businesses giving to charities and nonprofits is the publicity that comes with that. Businesses get a human connection when they work with organizations within the community- and potential clients or customers notice.
In 2018, research from Mintel showed that 84% of consumers believe it is important to them that a company supports charitable causes. Half of the Americans surveyed said that they would switch to a company that supports a cause they believe in. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds believe it is a company’s responsibility to give back, while around half expect brands to improve their local community and donate to charity (49%).
Lisa Cronin, CEO of Common Ground Community, Inc., said that Common Ground is “very hands on” so businesses get to see the impact they’re making and they get to know the people they are helping.
“They get to make connections within the community and see where their donations are really going,” Cronin said.
Smith agreed, saying that businesses who volunteer their time get to meet people face-to-face and see the impact they have, first-hand.
Smith said that many volunteers for Catholic Charities are elderly, and when COVID-19 brought everything to a stop, many of those volunteers had to step back from the work they loved doing.
“So, now we have a gap in manpower, as well as an increased need for manpower due to an increased need in our services, overall,” Smith said. “All nonprofits in this area could use volunteers.”
Cronin said that Common Ground donates boxes of food to 400 families every Friday, and that number is increasing.
“It goes up this time of year, anyway, but it’s reaching heights we have never seen,” she said. “We have given more pounds of food in the last seven months than we have in the last seven years, combined.”
Smith said an operation like that, or like Gabriel’s Closet with Catholic Charities, which serves low-income new parents, their infants, and small children up to four years of age, takes a lot of people to keep it running.
“We have items that need to be put up in the Closet, and we don’t have enough people to help us run that,” she said.
Volunteering time in these ways can help businesses show that they are involved in their community and that helps them build a strong reputation.
Additionally, Smith said that “in-kind” donations are always needed.
“Let’s say you own a restaurant and you have meat to donate. You find a food pantry and give to them. That’s a write-off for you, and it helps fill a need,” Smith said.
Cronin said that food is one of those things that Common Ground is in need of right now as the need for feeding more families rises.
“If someone wants to donate food or host a fundraiser to help us, we would definitely appreciate it,” Cronin said.
Smith said that it’s important for businesses to remember that they can make giving fun. Hosting a raffle where employees buy tickets for a prize, and then donating the proceeds, or holding a fundraiser, are ways to get employees involved in giving, and there are benefits to be found for businesses there, too.
In 2016, a poll conducted by Morning Consult for Fortune found that nearly two-thirds of people between the ages of 18 and 34 were somewhat more likely to want to work for a company that gave to charity than one that did not.
Both Smith and Cronin said that while there is a need for volunteers and donations all year, there are more people in need this year, and that need is increasing as the holidays approach.
If you are a business owner looking to support a local nonprofit or charitable cause, there are many to choose from in the Shreveport-Bossier area. Some of those include:
- Catholic Charities of Northwest Louisiana
- Common Ground Community, Inc
- United Way of Northwest Louisiana
- GOTR Shreveport
- Volunteers for Youth Justice
- The Philadelphia Center
- MLK Health Center & Pharmacy
- The Fuller Center for Housing
- The Providence House
- Community Foundation of North Louisiana
- Project Celebration
- Deaf Action Center
- Louisiana Association for the Blind
- HOPE Connections
— Angel Albring | BIZ. Magazine