Small businesses rely on the local community to support them. In return, small business owners are regularly on the lookout for ways to give back to the community. Particularly right now, businesses of all sizes are wondering how to help during COVID-19. This article offers seven initiatives you can take to have a positive impact on those around you.
Giving back to the community is great for business. Not only does it feel good and help you and your employees feel connected, but it also:
- Helps promote your business
- Gets the word out about your products or services
- Can mean a charitable deduction on your tax forms
- Provides publicity
- Lets you network
- Gives you something to share on social media and your website
- Engages employees
There are many creative, affordable ways for small business owners to give back to their community. This article rounds up seven to get you started. Learn more about:
- Organizing a drive
- Doing neighborhood cleanups
- Promoting and supporting the business community
- Sharing knowledge
Volunteering during COVID-19 will look different in many ways, yet you can see if the cause you’re interested in supporting has ways to volunteer from home. Or you or your staff could join a mentor program, volunteering your time and expertise to help others interested in your field.
You can give to the community on two fronts as far as volunteering. You and your staff could volunteer your time to help out an area organization. Or you could find opportunities for young people in your community who are looking for service opportunities. If you have a way to offer virtual volunteer opportunities to middle and high schoolers, you can contact local schools and let them know. They’re always looking for projects to put their kids to work and get useful professional experiences.
Choosing to donate products or services lets your business support those who are less fortunate in the community. For instance, restaurants can get involved with a local food rescue organization to help feed the food insecure and reduce food waste. For example, in North Carolina, Feeding Charlotte partners with local caterers to get excess foods after an event delivered to participating organizations.
You might check online directories to see what kinds of nonprofit organizations are participating in your local area. Find a cause you or your employees care about and plan in your next budget the expense of making a financial contribution. Or donate products that suit that organization’s needs. Or offer your business services at a local event. Depending on your business, you might cater a Toastmaster’s meeting or provide fencing for a festival.
Another way to give back to the community is to donate a portion of your sales for a specific period of time to a local charity. Maybe your bakery donates the money raised from every donut purchased on a particular day to support a sports team. Or Tuesday afternoon sales at your local hardware store are sent on to a women’s shelter.
If you have available space, you could donate room at your business to store a charitable organization’s supplies or host a group meeting.
Sponsorship of a youth sports team or sporting event is a great way to get your name out there. You might also want to play a role sponsoring a fun run, community parade, or festival. It’s even better if there are t-shirts involved, so your logo will be visible long after the event too.
Your sponsorship could also take the shape of donating products or services as prizes. Maybe a local charter school is having a silent auction or raffle to raise funds. The massage business could contribute gift certificates. Or the restaurant would provide a meal free. This approach to sponsorship is also an excellent way to drive foot traffic to your business.
Organizing a Drive
Putting a coin collection jar out to collect donations can make a difference one quarter at a time. You can also give back to the community by organizing a food, clothing, or toy drive. Before you put your organization skills to work supporting a large, national charity, check your local business listings to find a nearby charity that can benefit from your efforts. Finding a local organization and sticking to it can make a real difference.
You could check search engine listings for “nonprofit near me,” but it’s also a good idea to poll your employees about organizations to support. This is how you’ll learn that your cashier is also enthusiastic about rescuing parakeets or that your hairstylist is involved with a local youth group helping kids transition from traumatic home environments.
Doing Neighborhood Cleanups
This is not a glamorous way to give back, but participating in or organizing a neighborhood cleanup gets you out meeting your community members. Even if it is just your business picking up trash along that path on a particular morning, you’re making a positive impact. Plus, by getting your people to interact outside of the work environment, you’re helping build your internal community as well.
If that cleanup comes with signage promoting your business as the one responsible for keeping this part of the highway clean, all the better. It’s a nice, real-life way to get seen by people who might not yet have visited your local directory listings.
Promoting and Supporting the Business Community
This is always a good idea, but we’ve seen many creative ways to give back to the community during COVID. This might include a pizzeria dropping off pies to show support of a clinic offering testing or vaccinations. Or the dog boarding business that offers employees of a healthcare provider a free day of doggie daycare.
Promoting and supporting your local business community also builds your network. Search the business directory for small business associations in your area. There may be an organization that is specific to your neighborhood too. Join up and make a point of promoting that group’s efforts. Posting a sign in your shop window saying you’re a proud member of the Wallawoo Merchant Association (WMA) offers you credibility and helps raise awareness of the WMA.
When thinking of ways to give back to your community, don’t underestimate the value of what you know. And what your people know. A photography store owner who lets students learn to use a darkroom onsite can help them find a new creative outlet. The bookstore owner could lead a discussion on the myriad books that are like Gone Girl.
Or you might offer a workshop (even virtually right now) to share your know-how about a specific topic with the community. Giving an hour of your time to educate others fosters goodwill. Plus, you may even learn some things from the fresh perspective and questions your audience of students brings.
There are many different groups of people who can be helped during this pandemic and afterward. Take the time to think about what causes will ignite your passion. That way, you’re more likely to take action on a continual basis.
Small business success depends on your building relationships with your community. Enjoy the many benefits of making a difference in your community with a local focus.