4 Big Ways Small Businesses can Make a Difference
“Corporate Philanthropy” generally conjures images of large, multinationals making very large donations and starting foundations. But, according to the most recent US census, 99.7% of US employer firms are considered Small Businesses. Small businesses actually play quite a large role in their local communities and many are involved in a variety of social initiative s and charitable giving. Still , many small businesses feel hesitant to participate because they feel they lack the resources of larger companies. But, besides the obvious “feel good” benefits of giving, recent data shows that giving and community involvement is actually “good for business” A recent survey by The Alternative Board (TAB) showed 26% of socially-driven business owners expected their revenue to sharply increase, while only 14% of entrepreneurs who are strictly profit-driven said the same. It’s important for Small Business Owners to recognize that philanthropy need not be limited to large corporations, since “giving” isn’t limited to just writing big checks. Here are 4 unique ways that even small business can give back in a very big way.
1: Direct Participation
Team building exercises have long been a part of successful business practices, including small businesses. Whether it’s a high-ropes course, karaoke night or cake in the breakroom, we all know that regularly bringing a team together to connect outside of work is key to a small business’ success. Bringing your team together can help to increase motivation, productivity and personal development. What if your team building did double-duty? Small businesses may not have the funds to write those over-sized checks, but they often have teams of dedicated professionals who might be willing (and excited) to do a little more. Take your team building exercises to the next level by using the opportunity to serve your local community in some way, as a team. We spoke to Tori Loiacono at Jennifer Bett Communications , a small business based in New York. Each month, as a team, her staff volunteers together at God’s Love We Deliver, an organization that works hard to deliver cooked meals to people who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves. Together, her team regularly cooks, packs, and delivers meals to those in need in their local community. Says Tori, “we wanted to give back to the city that has given us so much”. In exchange, the exercises have brought her staff closer together. So if your team needs a moral boost or you want to increase team productivity, perhaps skip the paintball this year and instead consider scheduling a day of service at a worthy organization in your own local community. The benefits to your team and business are immeasurable, and you’ll have done a bit of service to your community as well. Everyone wins.
2: Pay it Forward
An increasing number of small businesses are making giving the rule, and not the exception. Many have even built their business model around giving. For some, the model is to give away items for every X number sold, or simply donating a portion of profit or sales to a charity. Soul Amenities, a St. Petersberg, FL based company that has a similar pay-it-forward approach. The company takes a portion of all sales and uses the money to provide to those living in areas where communicable diseases are present. Recently, they donated products to Operation Christmas Child and an orphanage in Africa. Alia, the company founder, created a charity arm of their company called Soap with S.O.U.L. after several international trips and decided it was time their company helped others. If you’re interested in charitable giving using the “Pay-It-Forward” approach, but don’t have the resources to build a lot of infrastructure around those efforts, there are some easier ways to get involved. For example, check out the ‘Every Swipe Benefits’ Charity. Run by Pay it Forward Processing, this is a program that allows businesses to give-back. Net proceeds can be donated from a business to a charitable organization at no cost to the business. Remember: whether you donate profits or items, or both, charities are generally pleased to receive donations of every size, big or small, so don’t worry if you don’t have multi-national sized pockets- every bit helps. Keep in mind, too, that the ‘Pay It Forward’ approach to giving doesn’t have to be limited to companies that sell goods, or even to monetary donations. Many small business have found they can also donate their services. Joni , founder of Thrive!Resumes, a city-based company based in Myrtle Beach, SC offering professional resume writing services offers a resume scholarship program as part of her regular business model. For every 20 paid-for resumes , a free resume is offered to elevate the job search for victims of domestic violence, wounded warriors, hurricane survivors or others in need. Joni explains her approach is based on a desire to ” help someone who might be at a low point in their life and just needs someone to reach out and give them a helping hand. ” John Paul Engel donates his time and expertise to the non-profit company Project Be The Change. Together, Jon has participated in projects ranging from building local soccer fields, to event sponsorships John has also experienced an unintended benefit. Namely, his company has employed volunteers fromPBJC after getting to know them through the project. For small businesses that don’t always have access to huge networks or large HR departments, community involvement can also provide some of this networking benefit. proving in yet another way that philanthropy can have surprising and wonderful benefits on all sides of the equation.
3: Keep others top of mind.
Space is a hot commodity for many small businesses. Maybe a vendor sent the wrong colors or size of an item. A few extra keystrokes and you have enough office supplies for several years. You’ve changed office space and have a glut of used furniture. Where to put it all? Many businesses try to re-sell these goods on wholesale or discount markets, at auctions or even Ebay. But, there is a lot of effort involved in those re-sales and it’s probably taking away from your time spent on your core business. Next stop? For many companies, it’s the trash. Which is quite sad actually, because there are so many charitable and community organizations that could make use of those items, from local schools, to soup kitchens, to major players like the Goodwill or Salvation Army. If you keep the needs of others top of mind, that overwhelming pile of extras, suddenly begins to look like quite the pile of treasure. Here at FORtheFIT, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves with a little excess inventory . We have certainly considered re-sale , but clothes are such a fundamental thing – a basic necessity that too many just don’t have enough of. Just recently, we donated 1400 pairs of our best-selling short and tall men’s fleece athletic pants to Goodwill Industries Internationals in the Northern Michigan area – the cold climate means the donation of warm fleece would have an immediate, positive impact on the local community (plus help Goodwill raise funds for their many important community initiatives) Again, infrastructure need not slow you down. Airtex Design Group, a city-based company that designs and manufactures on trend textiles for retailers all over the world, use the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources (NAEIR). To help them clear out any overstocks. NAEIR ‘connect companies looking to donate products with non-profits who can benefit from them’, explained Gary Smith, president and CEO. To find out more, visit the NAEIR website.
4: Provide opportunities for others to give back through Events / Fundraising
Be a leader in service of your local community. Consider using your leverage in your local community to encourage others to give back in a variety of ways. Organising fundraising, events is a great way to get lots of people involved. There are lots of platforms out there to help you organize an event. fitRaise is a platform to enable companies, of all sizes, to host worldwide events to raise money to support important causes. Or if you’re looking for a more mobile fundraising platform, check out Accelevents. This platform focuses on providing online and text message enhanced silent auctions and raffles. The company itself organises fundraisers each year, donating the proceeds to charity – this year they donated over $100,000 to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Whether you look to organize events on a small or large-scale, there are plenty of platforms and helpful services out there. From sponsorship to donations, you can get everyone involved in giving-back! If you can’t organize an event, you can offer your expertise at an event. Cookies for Cancer organises events throughout the year, encouraging businesses, and individuals, to get involved and fundraise. The founder of Eleni’s New York a company that raises money to fund child cancer research by holding a lot of bake sales (and other things) gets involved in this event as she sees a great connection between her business and the charity. So why not consider researching events near you which you can offer your own expertise?
As mentioned previously, whether you are able to give your time, your expertise, products, services, or monetary donations large or small, get creative and find ways that your small business can easily make a big impact in your surrounding community or to any number of great causes. Plus, you might be surprised at the myriad benefits (and increased success) your small business will enjoy enjoy as a result. Small businesses make us such a major part of the American Economy, that their their combined efforts can really make the biggest impacts of all. We hope you’re inspired to find ways to give back to the community. Let us know in the comments how your business is getting involved!