Small business owners find themselves trying to find more hours in the day, not more things to add to their already-full plates. Even so, it’s worth trying to carve out some time and resources for giving back to the community. More and more business owners are finding that community involvement may be the ultimate “win-win,” giving them a chance to do good and pick up some new customers at the same time.
Independentwestand.org, a group that promotes locally-owned businesses, says that getting involved through non-profits, your local chamber or local government is a creative way of putting your business out there while helping the community. There are different levels of involvement; you can sponsor, organize, or participate in an event. Regardless, you can make a real difference while generating visibility, positive word of mouth and goodwill.
An easy way to start? You could do something as simple as volunteering to write an article for a community group’s website or newsletter. Use your expertise to provide content that is educational or informational. Otherwise, figure out what you’re most passionate about to link up with organizations or causes you’ll want to stay with. And don’t hesitate to get your employees involved, too.
Contributor Jennifer Gregory writes on infusionsoft.com’s Big Ideas blog that because customers are loyal to businesses that care about and support the community, getting involved can mean the difference between thriving and shutting your doors. She offers several tips for integrating your small business into the community, including:
- Sponsoring a sports team
- Supporting a local charity
- Hosting community meetings
- Creating scholarships
- Becoming a local expert
In Inside Tucson Business, small business owner Ellen Kirton offers some interesting insights from her own participation in community activities on how community involvement can give your business big rewards. She says in budgeting your time and resources, it can be tempting to cut or scale back on community activity, but this is the worst thing you could do. Your business benefits from the visibility; the community benefits from having needs met and fulfilled; and you benefit from nurturing personal goals and causes you care about.
Kirton emphasizes that whether you donate products or services, volunteer or underwrite an event, make sure you are passionate about the organization, its mission and the activity you’re supporting.
The Akron/Canton edition of Smart Business (sbonline.com) featured an interview with First Merit Bank’s
Regional president & CEO Nicholas Browning, who talked about how businesses and their employees can get involved with community service endeavors. Although First Merit isn’t a small business, his suggestions still apply to small business owners and employees alike.
Browning talks about the “social responsibility” businesses have to help the communities they serve. Without the support of the community, the business probably wouldn’t exist. So, it only makes sense to give back to them.
Make the time and the commitment and demonstrate that community service is part of your business culture. Employees will follow suit by volunteering. As a business owner, you can encourage employees to find their own passions and get involved in ways they want to. Making it as easy as possible is important, too, like permitting community activity during working hours. Community involvement can also be a real morale booster and team builder, Browning says.
Getting ideas doesn’t have to be complicated. Browning suggests starting by contacting the United Way, which touches a variety of different organizations in different ways. There are other resources and leadership programs that can offer direction, but the simplest idea of all might be reading the paper. There are always stories about community organizations in need.
Need more ideas? Browning says FirstMerit has raised funds for disaster relief, collected food donations and volunteered for construction work—all avenues that could also be pursued by small businesses.
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