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in philanthropic assistance

Small firms’ impact grows
in philanthropic assistance

But four years ago local insurance and financial professionals became involved. Since then, attendance has more than doubled. What’s more, the dinner has attracted corporate sponsors and become a major fund-raising event.
Family Service now uses the dinner to raise community awareness about its support services for all ages. The agency expects this year’s March 2 dinner, honoring Paychex Inc. CEO Thomas Golisano with the Shumway Distinguished Service Award and featuring speaker Capt. Gerald Coffee, to attract even more attendees than in the past two years.
The adoption of Family Service by members of the Rochester Chapter of the American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters and Chartered Financial Consultants is not a common way small companies and independent businesspeople become involved in the non-profit sector. However, small-business involvement appears to be growing, and some say these firms are filling a gap in charitable contributions left by corporate downsizing.
“We have begun to fill a void traditionally supplied by large corporations,” said Frank Monte CLU, a board member of the chapter. “It’s a grass-roots (attempt) to help organizations suffering right now because charitable contributions are down.”
Corporate giving as a percentage of pretax profits in 1993 hit a 10-year low, down 13.4 percent since 1988 after adjusting for inflation, according to the Sept. 20, 1994, issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Large corporations have restructured their giving programs, sometimes cutting contributions or not increasing donations.
Meanwhile, small businesses are making more of an impact, according to a study by the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy noted in the November 1994 edition of the NonProfit Times. The study of Indiana small businesses found they gave more of their net income and more cash donations per employee to charities than did large corporations.
The study also concluded, however, that non-profits frequently overlook small firms as an alternative to shrinking corporate sources.
The United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. does not keep records of small-business contributions, said Neal Haddad, director of communications. However, the sense is that small firms generally are contributing more than in the past.
Small companies often do not have the out-of-pocket cash to donate, several owners said. Instead, they contribute in other ways, and several United Way programs are designed to make it possible.
Georgena Terry of Terry Precision Bicycles for Women Inc. has donated bikes through the United Way gifts-in-kind program, Haddad said. The United Way accepts non-cash contributions from area businesses like Terry’s and distributes them to 400 non-profits. Businesses of all sizes contributed $2.1 million in goods last year.
Employee volunteer programs are increasing, he said. Last year’s Annual Day of Caring attracted 3,000 participants; many came from businesses, including small companies and franchises.
The United Way is working with the Small Business Council of the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce Inc. for the third annual Day of Caring on March 29.
Non-profit boards of directors need broad representation from the community, and numerous small businessmen have stepped up to the task, Haddad said.
Members of the CLU and ChFC chapter serve and have served on the board of Family Service. Joseph Lobozzo, president of JML Optical Industries Inc., has served on the United Way board for 10 years. And last year, Mary-Frances Winters of the Winters Group Inc. chaired the 1994 United Way/Red Cross campaign, becoming the first small-business owner to hold that position.
Some United Way programs such as the Day of Caring appeal to small companies, Haddad said. one. A new initiative this year recognizes that many small companies set up shop in office parks and calls for small-business volunteers in complexes like the Piano Works, Linden Oaks and Corporate Woods to run campaigns in their office parks.
Ken Greene, owner of 26 area Bruegger’s Bagel Bakeries, found a way for his own small business to recruit others. Bruegger’s provided bagels and cream cheese for employees at company meetings, and in return United Way representatives were allowed 15 minutes to make their appeal.
Bagels for Business last year brought in more than $70,000 to the United Way from small companies, Greene said. He added that the program is a win-win-win situation: bosses feed their employees; the United Way solicits companies to run campaigns; and hundreds of people receive samples of Bruegger’s bagels and are exposed to the Bruegger’s name.
In addition, small businesses like Bruegger’s sometimes use limited cash funds to market themselves through non-profits while helping the community. Greene’s firm sponsors the Bagel Run for the Jewish Community Center and the Bruegger’s Heart, Walk, Run for the American Heart Association. These events gain additional exposure for Bruegger’s through T-shirts, brochures, sample bagels and more.
There is nothing wrong with businesses taking advantage of such marketing opportunities through non-profits, Terry of Terry Precision Bicycles for Women said. Her donation of bikes was a valuable tax write-off for the company, as well as good publicity.
Monte of the local CLU and ChFC chapter agreed. The relationship with Family Services allows insurance and financial professionals, long held by some in bad light, to get some positive publicity as well as make meaningful contributions.
Small-business owners also can take advantage of volunteer programs, Haddad added.
“In an age when people are looking for opportunities to build teams, to put collaborative work groups together and develop leadership skills,” he said, “for employees, all these things are present when they volunteer.”
The fact that a business is small does not mean cash contributions are out of the question, Haddad said. One example is JML.
Out-of-pocket contributions can be more difficult for small businesses, Lobozzo admitted, as cash usually is at a premium.
Yet Lobozzo donates to the United Way roughly $130 a year in the name of each of 75 JML employees, with the opportunity for employee matching gifts.
Winters agreed that many small firms are in a position to make cash contributions.
“Just because it’s a small business,” she said, “doesn’t mean it’s not a profitable business.”


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