Michael O’Connor, president of Foxborough-based WeGotSoccer, has found the solution that works for his business. After experiencing rapid growth, moving from a small facility in Raynham to a 70,000-square-foot building on Rte. 1 last year, and balancing the books during a rocky economic cycle, O’Connor’s company, which sells soccer equipment and apparel, has devised a winning game plan. It will focus its philanthropy solely on one charity, Weston-based Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

Small-business owners often struggle to find a delicate balance between watching the bottom line and being part of the communities they serve.

At times, being generous can adversely affect profits as individuals and worthy causes line up to request donations and support for a multitude of purposes.

Michael O’Connor, president of Foxborough-based WeGotSoccer, has found the solution that works for his business.

After experiencing rapid growth, moving from a small facility in Raynham to a 70,000-square-foot building on Rte. 1 last year, and balancing the books during a rocky economic cycle, O’Connor’s company, which sells soccer equipment and apparel, has devised a winning game plan. It will focus its philanthropy solely on one charity, Weston-based Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

O’Connor said he’d rather concentrate his efforts for maximum effect than dilute his contributions by spreading them among dozens of small requests.

While he claims no personal connection to the cause, O’Connor said there’s no shortage of breast cancer-induced heartache among the thousands of soccer players wearing his company’s jerseys.

Donating profits and taking a tax deduction makes more sense than letting the government take a bite of his proceeds through taxes, O’Connor said. Yet there’s more to it than that.

There’s no tangible measure of benefit to his bottom line, O’Connor said of his involvement, which totaled about $75,000 last year.

"Just lots of verbal support, and I think it’s had a positive impact. It has put us in a good light," he said.

But byproducts include pride and customer loyalty, too, as his company was responsible for signing up more than 500 participants for the Making Strides walk last October, which raised more than $3 million.

In April, recognition of his company’s name will get another bump when hundreds of New England Revolution fans are slated to wear pink shirts and sit in a special pink section of seats at nearby Gillette Stadium, with proceeds from those tickets directed to Making Strides, all courtesy of WeGotSoccer.

Representatives of the Revolution were unavailable for comment on this article.

Businesses that engage in charitable activities do see a financial benefit, said Jeff Kessner, evaluation manager for the nonprofit StreetWise MBA program.

"When businesses donate time and money, they show that they care about the community, and that builds a reciprocal relationship with residents. The business becomes part of what defines a community, and consumers choose to shop there, in part, due to those relationships," he said.

As a flagship sponsor, WeGotSoccer has its name emblazoned on the Making Strides’s publicity, right up there with biggies AstraZeneca and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Companies at that level are required to contribute $25,000 and rally at least 300 walkers for the organization’s big event.

Of course, the Making Strides organization is happy to spread the word about WeGotSoccer as well, holding the relatively small company up as an example in 100 cities across the country, said Diana Petruccelli, Walk Manager in the Strides’ Weston office.

"They’re an example of what can be done," said Petruccelli, who noted that O’Connor was the lone flagship sponsor to accept the challenge of sponsoring last fall’s Paint the Town Pink, a period in October when GateHouse Media used pink paper in 113 newspapers in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The effort netted $30,000 for the American Cancer Society.

"They’re the smallest of our flagship sponsors, but the largest in terms of their commitment," she said of WeGotSoccer.

The company’s deep roots in soccer circles in communities statewide allow Making Strides to reach residents beyond its traditional demographic, said Petruccelli, noting that O’Connor includes the organization’s name and logo on his letterhead, sign and in its retail store.

O’Connor, with 28 employees, said more companies should follow his lead. "Businesses get approached by every good cause, all compelling and all meaningful, but we have to weigh our ability to support all of those, and decide if it’s really going to make a difference," he said.

"Charity is not all for big companies."

The MetroWest Daily News