As Americans continue to cope with a still sluggish economy, charitable organizations have been feeling the pinch. A recent survey of charitable organizations shows giving trends are down or unchanged in the last two years.
Peter Buttenwieser, co-owner of CertaPro Painters of Jefferson Valley – the Yorktown-based painting company with clients throughout Westchester County, including the John Jay Homestead, and The Katonah Village Library – first noticed this trend in the reduction of individual giving at his children’s school. This got him thinking about how he and other small business owners could help fill the shortfall.
“At a business event I recently attended, Jerry (Greenfield) of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream spoke about how his company enhanced its brand through their charitable giving program, ” Buttenwieser said. “I decided that a charitable giving program just made good business sense for my business. I believe small business owners can make financial gains through this type of program while assisting charitable organizations.”
Toward this end, Buttenwieser and his business partner Mitch Berliner launched a charitable giving program in May, in which one percent of CertaPro Painters’ gross sales are donated to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). At the same time, Buttenwieser compiled tips and tricks for what works in adopting socially responsible business practices to help fellow small business owners.
"We've had such success, I'd love to become an evangelist for the process," he said.
Buttenweiser said the idea was born when Anthony Chillemi, a CertaPro employee and resident of Sleepy Hollow, asked him to sponsor his participation in the San Diego Marathon and The Swim Across the Hudson, events that supported the LLS.
“I liked the event and this very effective charity, and so I decided that instead of just personally giving, I wanted to connect my business to the cause,” he said.
Buttenwieser answered by saying he'd sponsor Chillemi with an amount equal to one percent of each sale the employee made—with the catch that Chillemi talk about the sponsorship during his sales calls.
"By becoming a spokesperson for the cause, he could raise awareness of LLS and of the company's participation in charitable giving," Buttenwieser said.
In the year that has passed since that original request, Buttenwieser solidified the company's giving program and CertaPro has donated about $6,500 to sponsor Chillemi's LLS races.
“Our goal for this year is to contribute between $10,000 and $20,000 to LLS,” Buttenwieser said. “Beyond that, I hope to become a resource for small business owners who want to copy this program.”
Buttenwieser said he can offer lessons learned during the process, such as how to match the company's interests to the right social cause; how to identify the right personnel to be involved in charitable giving and how to tie a social mission into a company's bottom line.
As for the impact the new charitable giving program has had on CertaPro, he said it is still too early to claim any increase in his customer base or his company’s revenue. But one longtime CertaPro customer, Ida Milhorat of Bedford, said that knowing about CertaPro’s charitable giving program makes a difference.
“I’ve been using CertaPro Painters for years, and of course knowing about this new charitable giving program makes a difference; it is even more of a reason to keep using them,” Milhorat said
To find out more about creating a charitable giving program for your small business, email PButtenwieser@certapro.com.