With big companies, you see them actually creating policies that perhaps, reduce waste and recycle more, or that allow their employees to take part in voluntary activities such as mentoring or working for a charity. Some particularly enlightened employers allow employees to take time off to do this.Those running small businesses have fewer resources at their disposal, and less money. Many small business owners work alone and do not have employees at all – so any time that they as individuals do give up is extremely generous. Small business owners however, have that advantage that they have a much clearer understanding of factors affecting the area in which they trade because they are hands on in that business every day – and when they are not in the business running it – they are thinking about it incessantly and considering issues that may affect trade.
If you are not someone who works with your community or in the locality or you don’t do any charity work you may be wondering what planet I’m on and why I’m preaching. Why give your money and time away? Well I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you are an SME, undertaking charitable work is a great way of raising your business profile. As Richard Branson has said, “Getting involved in volunteer efforts may help you to find customers and grow a business with deep roots in the community, which may be integral to its long-term success.” Branson states that when he was starting up Virgin Records in the early 1970s, he and his friends chose to back student advisory centre close to Virgin headquarters, which “provided guidance for young people on everything from dealing with depression to getting a job.” He found that while this didn’t improve his record shop sales directly, his “work there did help us to keep in touch with our audience’s concerns and the problems they faced at a time when the culture was changing very quickly.”
I’m not suggesting you go and volunteer at the British Heart Foundation or Oxfam for 18 hours a week while simultaneously running your own business, oh no. I’m also not suggesting you hand over half your profits to anyone who comes around collecting for ‘charidee’. Of course you can’t over-stretch yourself or the donations that you give.The point is that while the activities that you do will probably not lead to greater profits in the short term (although this can be an indirect result) you will be building relationships and your business will become a hub for the community. People will know that you support them and that you are fostering goodwill. Better relationships all around will means that ultimately your business will be more successful.
If you want to raise the profile of your business in your local vicinity then here’s a few tips.
Choose just a few charities to support. Local ones will give you the best reputation in the area as word gets around, but national charities close to your heart are good too. Having a plan of who you will support enables you to have a good reason to turn others down should they come knocking on your door.
Decide how much your business can afford to spend. For example if you are offering raffle prizes, tombola prizes, vouchers or coupons or donations, have a fixed amount and stick to it. Review it annually. Donating time and skills are just as valuable as giving money.
A real positive of giving something back is the intangible benefit you get from giving. Giving back to the community connects you with it, lends a greater sense of belonging and you have the satisfaction of at least trying to make the world a better place. The tangible benefit of giving is that you are able to use the charitable deduction on your income tax.
What ideas can you think of for your business? Are there groups in your community in need of your support?They may only need some mentorship or the loan or donation of equipment. If you can afford it you could sponsor a local junior football team. Are there skills you could offer to teach other people? Just a few hours a month can make a big difference in other people’s lives and help with you with redefining your company’s place in its locale.