Community support by your small business can be a win-win for both your business and your community.
By Wendy Priesnitz
Many small businesses receive requests to contribute money, goods, or staff time to community non-profit groups and projects. These are usually worthy causes. But are these activities a positive use of the very limited resources that independent businesses have available? And if we do decide to become involved in a community support project, how do we decide if it’s the right fit?
The Benefits of Community Involvement
Doing good can often lead to doing well. The bottom line is that a project must benefit not just the community but your business as well. You need a focus beyond simply doing good. So the first thing you should do is to establish some guiding principles for your company’s community involvement.
Decide how charity work and sponsorship fit in with your strategic goals. Involvement in a community support project can, if done thoughtfully, raise your company’s profile in a positive way. But don’t expect a direct financial impact. Aside from being the right thing to do if you can manage it, community involvement often builds employee satisfaction and other intangibles…but it rarely creates new business directly. Some of the benefits, in addition to making you feeling good, are:
- gain exposure for your company
- enhance your public image
- increase customer loyalty
- encourage a greater sense of service in your staff
How to Decide if a Community Involvement Project is a Good Fit
Set up a process for reviewing requests and making decisions. Whether this process involves just you or a screening committee that includes employees, it must use consistent criteria so decisions can be justified to community groups and staff members. Establish a policy about whether or not you wish to support controversial causes that might alienate customers and about the size of cash donations, which could adversely affect your profitability.
It is important to make a commitment you can live with. Start small, with simple efforts that involve no capital outlay. This gives you a risk-free way to acquaint yourself with the time and planning requirements involved and to determine what you and your business can comfortably handle.
The ways your small business can help your community are numerous and don’t have to involve direct cash donations. You can donate products or services – such as bookkeeping, newsletter or advertising design, or training. Product donations can range from day-old bakery goods provided to feeding programs at local churches, to computers for programs for needy teens, to a door prize for a group’s annual meeting. Or you could even donate the use of your parking lot for a fundraising car wash.
No matter how you get involved, you’ll find that if you give back to the community, your generosity will always come back to you and your small business in a positive way. Strong communities are made up, in part, by strong local businesses…and vice versa. Community support by companies of all sizes should, in my opinion, be part of being in business.
Wendy Priesnitz has been a writer and a home business owner for forty years. She has also taught and coached micro business owners, and wrote a small business newspaper column for ten years. She is the author of the book Bringing it Home: A Small Business Start-Up Guide for You and Your Family.