If you own a small business, you’re seen as a community leader—and, as such, you have both a responsibility and a valuable opportunity to give back to your community. Partnering with a local or national non-profit organization will help you make a real impact on the world around you, while also helping your business build a positive brand identity. Here are some strategies for using your business to serve the greater good.
If you’re passionate about wildlife rescue or teaching literacy, incorporate these themes into your business. Find a local non-profit that works in the area of your greatest interest, and discuss the ways that you might be able to partner. For instance, are you able to make a commitment to donating 10 percent of your net profits to the organization each year? Your contribution will be tax-deductible, and, if your customers know that a portion of your proceeds is going to a good cause, they’ll be more likely to open their wallets at your store.
In addition to or instead of working with a non-profit that focuses on your own personal interests, it can also be wise to align your business with an organization that can make good use of your unwanted surplus. For instance, if you own a café, you can partner with a soup kitchen and distribute your leftover bagels and pastries to the organization at the end of the day so that the leftover food doesn’t go to waste. If you run a hardware store, talk with an organization like Habitat for Humanity to find out what sort of building supplies it would appreciate. By working with an organization that can make use of your excess materials, you can prevent your surplus from going to waste while also making a positive impact on your own community—a win-win for everyone.
Along with financial or material donations, donation of labor is a valuable resource for many non-profits—and, if you run a small business with at least a few employees, you’re well equipped to provide this much-needed service.
If you run a professional services firm, such as law, accounting, or public relations, consider signing a pro bono contract with a local non-profit group. Make sure that both sides are clear about the terms of the arrangement, so that you don’t make a bigger commitment than your team can handle. If both parties understand what’s involved, however, this sort of arrangement can prove to be rewarding and valuable for both parties—your staff will appreciate the fact that they’re working for a good cause, and the non-profit will likely show its appreciation by promoting your organization heavily.
Even if you aren’t able to donate professional services, you can still offer physical assistance to a local nonprofit. Look for an organization that needs hands-on help for a particular event, such as a holiday meal for the homeless or a one-day home construction. Enlist your employees in a paid day of volunteer service: They can wear t-shirts bearing your company’s logo to help promote your business during the event.
Along with the feel-good aspect, one of the greatest benefits of involving your business in charity work is the fact that your contributions will have a significant positive effect on your marketing efforts. If you’re making a sizable donation of money, product, or labor to a particular charity, discuss the ways that the non-profit might be able to promote your business. The non-profit may be able to include a message about your business’ contribution in its next email newsletter, which likely goes out to thousands of local supporters. Be sure to spotlight your association with the non-profit to your existing customers, too: Ask for permission to use the non-profit’s logo on your marketing materials, and include a mention of your partnership on your website, brochures, and other marketing collateral.
Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than a decade.
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