Community Involvement for Entrepreneurs

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Corporate philanthropy isn’t just for the big brands. Clearly, a small business can’t manage global projects in the billions of dollars like The Coca Cola Foundation or the  Nike Community Impact Fund. However, it is still possible for a small business to make a positive impact on the world. Community involvement for entrepreneurs can take on many forms so both the community and the business benefits.

Benefits of community involvement for entrepreneurs

Obviously, contributing to charities and participating in social causes benefits the community. Additionally, there are many benefits for entrepreneurs. For any business owner considering becoming involved in their community, read on to learn reasons why it’s worthwhile.

Friendship

After all, when spending time with like minded people, friendships will form. Community involvement for entrepreneurs opens up a whole new social circle outside their usual networking crowd.

Personal Development

Giving to others is an opportunity for personal development. Learning about a cause or an issue broadens the mind and provides more perspective on your own life and business.

Leadership Skills

It’s also possible to develop leadership and management skills. For example, when I was President of the Board of a women’s shelter, I dealt with issues like governance and staff performance, which built my communication and mediation skills.

Good Karma

Sure, it may be a little cheesy. But doing good things for others is simply a good thing to do. It feels great to be of value, contribute, and help others. This creates a positive feeling which can flow over into all areas of life and business, and attract more positive things.

Networking

In addition to making friends, community involvement for entrepreneurs is also valuable for networking. After all, there will be other business owners out there with the same goals, and people doing corporate volunteer programs. So it’s a chance to make new connections and expand your network.

Brand Visibility

Sometimes, community involvement allows for more brand visibility. For example, sponsoring a fundraising event in exchange for displaying the company name and logo.

More ideas are in the next section below, Ideas for Small Businesses.

Tax Writeoff

Donations in cash and in kind may create tax savings for your business. Check with an advisor to see what is available in your area.

Business Awards Nomination

This should never be the only reason for contributing and volunteering. However, it’s a fact that these activities may help a nomination package for a business award. After all, social responsibility is valued, so award panels prefer to recognize entrepreneurs and businesses who make the effort and investment to help others. For more on this, read “Are Business Awards Worth it?

Team Building

The opportunities for team building is another benefit for a small business. For example, signing up for a charity fun run as a team. Or teaming up in pairs to work a shift serving food at a shelter. Also, involve staff in the decision making and planning of the company’s community involvement. This lets them share the positive experience and benefits of contributing. Working on this project develops teamwork and bonding which will benefit their on the job communication.

Be strategic

As shown above, there are many benefits from community involvement for entrepreneurs. It’s best to be strategic about selecting the what and how. Naturally, it’s important to pick something that is meaningful for you. It just doesn’t make sense to devote time and energy to a cause you don’t deeply care about. However, it is recommended to align with your brand and customer avatar. Consider what your clients would feel good about supporting. For example, if your company provides products or services for pets, then a Humane Society or animal welfare organization is a good fit. Or for a business related to home decor, repair, or maintenance, then a homeless shelter or Habitat for Humanity is a good choice. In Canada, it’s part of the culture for families to stop at Tim Hortons before or after (sometimes, before AND after) doing activities together. Which is why their Timbits sports program is such a brilliant example of strategic corporate philanthropy. They help children participate in sports, which benefits their physical and mental health. And the Timmies logo is on every kid on the field.

Be open to ideas

Community involvement doesn’t have to be donations or sponsorship. My last company participated in Cleaning up the Capital, which improved the appearance and safety of neighbourhood parks and playgrounds. Overall, consider your business as a way to help people. Perhaps there is an opportunity to provide training or employment for people with disabilities, like through EasterSeals.

Strategic Community Involvement for Entrepreneurs

Ideas for small businesses

First of all, it doesn’t have to be a charity, like a foundation searching for a cure. Consider all the needs of the community where your business operates. For example, senior homes, schools, homeless shelters, food banks, halfway houses, animal welfare, accessibility, and environmental causes. Here are some ideas to help find the right fit for your business.

Board of Directors

Non profit boards are unpaid, and they always need committed people to keep the organization going. Joining a Board is a meaningful way to contribute time and skills.

Volunteering

There are many ways to be hands-on for a cause. Include employees to make it a team building exercise. Or, reward staff with perks earned by volunteering to a cause they care about.

Sponsorship

Many events have a range of business sponsorship opportunities that will get the company name and logo different levels of exposure. For example, website listing and link, banners at the event, menu sponsor, and table sponsor. Also consider golf clubs, since they often organize fundraising events and rely on business sponsorships to boost the donation.

Matching Donation

Run a campaign to raise funds for a specific cause and pledge to match donations from customers.  

Customer Selected Donation

This is another way to make a donation and engage new customers at the same time. At the point of sale or contract signing, give the new customer a choice of donation. For example, I knew a plumbing company who allowed customers to choose where a $5 donation would go, giving 3 different local charities as options. Pausing to make that decision really connects the customer with the donation process, and it’s a positive experience knowing that in hiring that company, they are also helping a cause they care about.

Silent Auction

Help raise funds by donating products or services to a silent auction. Attend the event if possible, as a way to learn more about the cause and meet new people.

Conclusion

Overall, there are many benefits from community involvement for entrepreneurs. It can raise brand visibility and awareness. There are many opportunities to network, make connections, and build friendships. In fact, it’s a learning experience which can grow leadership and management skills. Also, it’s a chance to develop closer bonds among employees. But most importantly, it’s just good karma to help others. All business owners should consider how to contribute to the needs of their community.

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