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Small business owners who find success in their industry often look for ways to give back. One way entrepreneurs tend to do so is through the establishment of foundations, which like businesses, take work to maintain and make effective. 

At what point does it make sense to start a foundation, and will you be able to balance the responsibilities of your business and charitable endeavors? These are questions worth asking as you explore ways to amplify the good you can while keeping your foot in the private sector. 

As business and finance specialist Gwen Moran wrote for Entrepreneur.com, “foundation founders must get up to speed on laws and regulations, oversee operations, attract donors, and review programs for possible funding” among other responsibilities. This can be a lot for anyone to juggle along with the regular challenges of business ownership, but done right, it can be a rewarding and fruitful vehicle for charitable contribution.

Co-founding and maintaining The Charatan / Holm Family Foundation has been incredibly worthwhile; I recommend anyone with a deep interest in philanthropy to at least consider this path. For those that do, here are four tips for balancing your business and your foundation:

Align your foundation with your passion

There is no way getting around it: a foundation, as a separate and complex entity, will require significant time and effort on your part. As you may know, balance is easier when you are passionate about the items on your plate, which is how wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers are able to prioritize family and work despite the challenges. It’s the same for hobbyists — somehow, they always find the time to do what they love along with what brings home the bacon. 

With a foundation that ignites passion within you, and is in line with causes you care deeply about, the commitment necessary will feel less like a dreadful chore than a joyful choice. 

Do your research and seek council when necessary

Your new foundation must be registered appropriately and governed by bylaws that dictate how it will be run. An experienced attorney may be worth consulting in order to navigate these complexities, especially when you are first getting started. Whether you seek legal counsel or not, it’s a good idea to make time beforehand to familiarize yourself with nonprofit laws and create an operating manual so that you aren’t caught off guard — a mistake that could end up jeopardizing your business, too, by eating up too much of your time. 

In other words, diligent preparation is your friend. Foundations have their own sets of rules every founder must abide by and create, as well as criteria for funding recipients, none of which can be followed or created in ignorance. 

Assemble a board you can trust

Most foundations rely on a board of trustees whom together help set direction and strategy for the foundation, make grants, and oversee charitable investments, among other responsibilities. Many founders choose insiders including family members to sit on their foundation’s board, which in and of itself is not a bad idea, so long as there is some diversity of thought and a strong sense of neutrality and ethics. 

Critically, your board members should be reliable and responsible so that the foundation will  always be in good hands. Pick people who will actively advocate for your mission and attend meetings and committees without hesitation. Their help will allow you to allocate the proper weight to this significant endeavor. 

Focus on sustainability 

Lastly, a good foundation needs fundraising to be sustainable unless you have an independent source of wealth to keep it afloat. This means creating a plan that will continue to raise funds in order to keep supporting the causes and charities your foundation is devoted to helping. 

Your focus need not be on making the biggest splash in the nonprofit world; another worthwhile mission is making consistent contributions that will improve the longevity of your impact. With a sustainable model for fundraising in motion, your foundation will run smoothly, allowing you to focus on business, charity, and everything else in your life unburdened by the stress of uncertainty. 

About the Author(s)

Debrah Lee Charatan

Debrah Lee Charatan is an entrepreneur and real estate veteran widely recognized for her experience brokering, investing and developing commercial, residential and mixed-use properties in the New York City area.

President, BCB Property Management
Charity Volunteer Debrah Lee Charatan SCORE