Supporting a charity through your business can be rewarding for everyone involved. While the charity can benefit from your financial support, it can also reap rewards from the infrastructure and platform that bigger businesses can offer. Likewise, your business will benefit from a charity’s emotional appeal, as well as from increased media exposure. There are also nice tax breaks involved, though you’ll have to consult with an accountant to determine just what that means for your industry. That said, supporting a charity is mostly about the kind of rewards that will never show up on your balance sheet. And with so many worthy causes, how should you choose? We’ve compiled tips from a range of business owners, both big and small, for making those choices and doing it right.

How to narrow down those choices. First and foremost, your chosen charity should share the same values as your company; even better if they share a mission. Why? Because consumers can see right through any token charity efforts. If, for instance, everyone knows your company dumps chemicals into rivers, it will look downright cynical if you support an environmental group. In contrast, an educational software company will be able to produce much more compelling and innovative events when they pair with an educational non-profit that has some overlapping goals. Together, they’ll be able to motivate their shared audience with campaigns that are relevant, engaging, and all the more powerful when drawn from pooled resources. That said, you don’t have to stick within your niche to make real change. Poll your customers and employees beforehand to learn about the issues they’re passionate about, or even put a few charities on the ballot. Even the decision process can be a tool to promote customer engagement if you make it into a competition. As for employees, you’ll want them to be fully on board since they’re going to be working hand in hand with the charity.

Next, think about the capabilities your business has to offer. Will this be purely a financial contribution, or can the unique platforms, PR avenues, and human capital you have on offer make the kind of difference no other business can? As for the charity itself, it’s best to think through a few criteria ahead of time. Are you looking for something big or small? Local or national? Something that helps social causes or environmental? Think it out before you reach out. Last but not least, take a close look at the charity’s backend before you make a commitment. Make sure they’re registered with the IRS, that they seem transparent and accountable, and that you feel at ease when working with them. If possible, agree to a trial run before making a final commitment.

What to do once it’s launched. Okay, so you’ve picked your charity and you’re ready to start work. What to do? First, make sure the whole team is on board, especially if this is going to be a labor intensive partnership for your employees. Try team building activities to start, and then make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Likewise, encourage customer participation through games, events, and discounts for contributions. The more you can make the experience fun and engaging, the more everyone will buy in. And of course, keep in frequent touch with the charity. You’ll want to know just how well the campaigns are going, as well as where the money is going. It may feel good to give, but you should still hold to the same principles you’d bring to any business partnership.

Head out on your own. For small businesses, joining forces with or sponsoring a charity is more than their small staff or budget can do. In those cases, it can be better to head out on your own. This could mean everything from starting a nonprofit branch of your business to providing free resources online until it becomes something bigger, much in the manner of Salman Khan and the Khan Academy. For other interesting fundraising ideas, try browsing Razoo, Kiva, or Kickstarter and voting as a company for a project to support. This way you’ll be able to help people and causes without overreaching on your limited budget. You’ll find a wide range of creative ideas, too, ones you probably wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

Need an example? Just look to Nordstrom and their partnership with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). What began as a small event called the Beat the Bridge to Beat Diabetes run has raised more than $10 million since 1983 and grown into one of Seattle’s biggest events. This engages not just the local population but Nordstrom employees, too, with over 1,000 employees donating 5,000 hours to the cause in 2011. By choosing a charity whose values matched their own, Nordstrom ensured they’d get the best out of their employees and that their event would be both engaging and of the highest quality. Working with a charity is a must for any successful business. Do your research and find the best fit for you. According to Razoo their top fundraising categories are animal fundraising, art fundraising, and autism fundraising – to find one that fits your small business check out their fundraising ideas page. Nothing feels better than giving back to the community that made you as successful as you are.