We all know that giving back to our community is a great way to make an impact on the world around us and feel good about making a difference. But, for small business owners, doing good deeds can also help your brand reputation, since consumers are actually more likely to purchase from businesses that are associated with philanthropic foundations. What does your business need to do before you develop your philanthropic plan?
Pick One or Two Issues
Even large companies don’t spread themselves too thin by focusing on several different causes. Think about what you have to offer and what issues best align with your mission statement. Often there is a connection between a business and a charity, such as a contractor helping out with Habitat for Humanity, an organization that helps low-income families purchase homes. Restaurants may want to donate to a soup kitchen. Also, look for causes connected to your customers. If your clients are outdoorsy consider contributing to wildlife or animal associations, or if your clients are mainly young families, think about sponsoring a little league team.
Ask Your Employees
Poll your employees to see what issues they care about. That way you will have passionate and active volunteers in your own employees. Offer them the opportunity to get involved with your philanthropic efforts. It’s also a great way to build your company culture. Some companies, such as iContact, will even give their employees paid time off to perform volunteer work.
Even if your company is small, you can still help out. Don’t be deterred if you’re unable to launch a giant philanthropic effort from the get-go. Even small actions can lead to something bigger. Plus, by starting your philanthropic efforts you are building your company’s reputation, which isn’t based on the amount you give to charities, but rather on your effort to give back.
Giving Doesn’t Mean Cash
Starting small doesn’t necessarily mean donating dollars to a cause, either. Other worthy contributions include your (and your employees’ time), expertise, property or resources. If you own a computer company, think about donating equipment to local schools or library. If you’re an accountant, you can offer financial advice to community causes. You should also consider donating your company’s product or service, such as a spa package or a free consultation with a financial planner, to local auctions. Sharing your skills and goods is sometimes more valuable than writing a check.
Integrate Philanthropy with Business Practices
Don’t make philanthropy something you do after the business day ends—integrate it into your business operation. Donate a portion of your sales to a particular charity, or develop green initiatives that coincide with an environmental group. Search for ways your charitable endeavors can help reinforce your everyday business practices.
Spread the Word
While it can feel good to give back to your community, there is also an added perk of building your company’s reputation. It’s okay to get attention for your philanthropic activities. You want your employees, clients, and community to know what you’re doing. Not only does it help your business but it also publicizes the charity’s cause. When you publicize your efforts, make sure to focus on the charity. You can even get them to provide you with a testimonial for your newsletter, website or press release. Focus on the results, such as who benefits from your contributions or projects instead of how great you are—that will come across anyway.
Pat Yourself on the Back
Celebrate your efforts with your team! All of you have worked hard to make a difference.
In your efforts to help others, you’ll want to keep your own business expenses low. Cut costs low by using popular small business products like email marketing software, email fax, and virtual phone systems.