Developing a charity program or not for profit startup (Part 1)

by Guest Author on January 23, 2013

Often, when you’ve worked hard to build a successful business  you feel ready to give back to the community that has given you its support.  Developing a successful charity program is not a simple thing to do but can be very rewarding.  We wanted to help out our community but we knew it needed to be on a budget of next to nothing.  If you follow some of these steps you can begin to develop a program that will help your business return something to the community that supports you every day.

Getting Started – Sweat Equity
When we decided to develop a charitable program we first had to discuss what we wanted to do and how we would frame the program to help us control costs.  We are a garage that will fix cars for you and will also allow you to fix your own car.  The ability to fix your own vehicle is really our Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and we knew we wanted to develop a give-back program that helped us leverage our USP.  We had always admired Habitat for Humanity and the way they required “Sweat Equity.”  Sweat equity is the requirement that the recipient of the home helps work on the home they will be receiving.  We decided to ask our recipients to help our technicians work on their vehicles as well.

From this germ of an idea the “Working Hands” program was born.  Each month we give away a car repair to a working family.  We ask that someone else nominates someone for the program and we select the recipient from the nomination forms we get each month.  We really wanted to try to help working families that were affected by the lagging economy and are struggling to make ends meet each month.  We saw many of these families come in and could not afford to repair their car.  We wanted to help a few of these families with Working Hands.

Finding Funding and Support
We knew we could afford to donate the labor for the monthly repair we gave away but we could not afford the parts and the labor.  Over these first two years in business we have been able to grow our relationships with our parts vendors.  This was the first place to start.  We called our vendors and pitched them the Working Hands idea.   After several calls and a few pitches we had secured $500 per month in parts donations towards the program.  Our vendors were excited to be involved with Working Hands.  We were now ready to create an application form and begin marketing to the general public.

Taking the Idea to the Web
We went to the web and began reviewing other nomination forms.  From these examples we built our own.  We used Microsoft Word to develop the nomination form.  Then we uploaded the form to Google documents.  Google documents is an excellent tool to get forms on the cloud so any person can find them.  You simply need to save the file on your computer then open a Google account.  Once you have a Google account you can upload the document and set it to be shared with the public.  Anyone online can print or save the document and e-mail or fax it to us.

We had a Facebook page and a Twitter account.  We began to post solicitations for Working Hands on Twitter and Facebook.  We also spoke to our best customers and asked them to spread the word and nominate someone they knew that was in need.  Our social media efforts were not too successful at the start but we had a Lutheran School minister who nominated two excellent candidates.  We were now in business ready to select our first recipient.

To be continued…

Bill ReillyAbout the Author:
Bill Reilly one of five founders and currently is in charge of the marketing. Hands-on Garage can be found at, and @HandsOnGarage on Twitter.

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