Sometimes small businesses feel they lack the time or money to really contribute to the good of a community. Small business stressors -- lack of control, customer needs, being too busy or not busy enough -- make time churn so fast that giving back becomes a lesser priority. This sounds counterintuitive because small business owners are approached all the time by charities and a report from Alignable.com shows that more often than not, your business supports a cause in some way every year (Source: https://www.alignable.com/insights/small-business-philanthropy-on-the-rise).
How can small business owners make a meaningful difference with limited resources? First, be intentional. Everything starts here and it helps to avoid being reactionary when solicited. Determine the how and the why. How will your business give back -- cash, service, good or time? What causes will you support and do they align with your company's philosophy? Is your small business being generous because consumers are more likely to support charitably-inclined companies or are you trying to retain great employees who value this trait in their employer? Your customers and employees will respond to your authentic intentions and will remember your generosity.
Then, start by doing. Small business owners can contact charities and discuss how much and when you'd like to give to their organization. Every nonprofit CEO is grateful for any contribution your business will make -- no matter how many hours, dollars or items. Like you, they know that every bit supports their mission. If you're stuck on how to get started, here's a few ideas to show your local charity love with limited resources.
Spread generosity with a $100 no-strings give stipend for employees to donate to their favorite cause. Or match up to $50 for one annual donation made by each employee. Host an 'We Support Local Causes' meeting where employees share where financial contribution went and why that cause matters to them.
Offer employees an optional half day of paid volunteer time annually or organize a company-sponsored employee volunteer day. Employees suggest a few volunteer activities and vote on what to do.
Offer pro-bono skills or in-kind services - nonprofit organizations always looking for support with marketing, accounting, legal issues, graphics design, web-editing, transportation or logistics and seek help with physical upkeep for electrical needs, painting or building maintenance.
Adopt a Family (or Pet) -- a great team-building activity where employees can contributes one item for a big group gift. Employees can take pics while wrapping gifts or add personal notes to the recipient family. Consider hosting this activity to honor your company's anniversary.
There is a charity fundraiser nearly every weekend - ask your customers and/or employees to email one event they support. Pick one fundraiser randomly every quarter and offer to pay for them to take one extra guest or attend it with them. Most charity 5K runs cost less than $45 and other fundraisers, like wine tastings or golf events, are less than $100.
Donate a percentage of sales -- any percentage is great and charities are always grateful. Have a policy that donations occur after a certain sales amount.
Even with limited resources, small businesses can make a huge collective impact in local communities. Not convinced? According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau, there are 33,688 employers in DuPage County. If only half of them were small business employers (16,834) who gave their 20 employees a $50 no-strings charity stipend, together they would contribute over $16 million to local charities or would donate over 1.3 million hours of time with 4 employee volunteer hours annually.
Here's a few last tips for small businesses looking to give big.
1. Budget for it - setting aside money each month
for financial giving is more manageable.
2. Proudly share your company's giving culture - ask the charity to provide an impact report and tell that story on a 'Community Giving' page on your website.
3. Remember the power of social networking -- to like/follow/share/comment/retweet about your favorite charity costs your business nothing, but definitely amplifies the message of your favorite causes while introducing your company to new people.
4. Learn about local charities - if you don't know enough about them or where your business can donate your time/skills/services consult your local volunteer center or community foundation (Giving DuPage can help because we exist to connect the public to local opportunities to give back).
Sure, big corporations can write big checks and this is important. The collective impact, however, of the smalls - small business owners - is incredibly impressive and makes all local nonprofits grateful for every single contribution received.
• Shefali Trivedi is the Executive Director of Giving DuPage in Wheaton at givingdupage.org. Giving DuPage offers support & resources to learn about local nonprofit organizations or to organize a volunteer activity. Search for 700+ volunteer & in-kind donation needs at the Giving DuPage Volunteer Portal. The Board2 Program is an opportunity for board service and is another professional development tool for companies.