The results are in and it’s a fact: giving is good for business. In fact, 93 percent of the world's largest companies publish an annual report detailing their social responsibility initiatives.
Giving back does not mean giving away profits. Corporate social responsibility (CSR), a blanket term that can apply to small businesses too, often actually increases the bottom line.
While many small businesses are not able to match the rock-bottom prices of chains and large retailers, you can often gain customer loyalty by establishing yourself as a community business.
Why giving is good for business?
Consumers want to buy into a brand, not just buy from it
A recent Weber Shandwick/KRC Research study found that 46 percent of consumers “increasingly buy from companies that make them feel good and happy.” And millennials in particular believe it matters if “American businesses give back to society.”
Giving back is good for PR, Social Media, and SEO
Participating in charitable events, such as fund-raising walks, or creating your own event, can help your business get positive media coverage (if you publicize your efforts in a thoughtful way). That’s what you call "good PR."
On the SEO side, a mention of your business, and a link to your website from a credible media outlet, can increase your small business website’s authority. The more earned media links your site gets, the more authority it stands to gain.
In a survey of Search Engine Journal’s Twitter following, 50 percent of respondents said earned media will deliver the best SEO results in 2017, followed by paid media at 30 percent.
On the social front, sharing your small business’s philanthropic activities on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media increases the likelihood that your followers may share your posts with their followers. Those shares can act as the online equivalent of positive word-of-mouth, which can drive new visitors to your website.
Consumers may spend more on your products or services
At least 55 percent of global online consumers are willing to spend more on products and services from socially responsible businesses, according to Nielsen.
“This behavior is on the rise and it provides opportunities for meaningful impact in our communities, in addition to helping to grow share for brands,” according to Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability for Nielsen.
You’ll save money by retaining employees
Just as consumers like to feel good about the companies they buy from, employees like to feel good about the companies they work for. The better your employees feel about you, the better the chances they’ll stick around.
Business Giving Back to the Community
Many successful small and midsize businesses have gained loyal customers by giving back in ways that are relevant to their business. Here are three examples:
- In the bookstore business, Better World Books has earned a following for donating books and contributing to global literacy initiatives. The company’s website runs a ticker across the bottom of its home page, providing visitors with a constantly updated account of books donated and funds raised for literacy and libraries.
- Eyeglass company Warby Parker makes a monthly donation to its nonprofit partners based on the number of eyeglasses sold. The goal is to train citizens in developing countries to give basic eye exams and sell inexpensive eyeglasses in their communities.
- Detroit-based Better Life Bags designs custom, made-to-order bags. To make the bags, the company hires women who have had difficulty finding employment. The bags come with the names of the woman who made it.
Community Involvement Ideas for Your Business
Customers will often show loyalty to businesses that care about the town they serve and becoming a community business can often make the difference between thriving and shutting your doors.
If you are ready to take the jump and get involved, but unsure how best to go about it, here are several ideas for your business to become involved and focus on social responsibility.
Sponsor a sports team
Sports, ranging from high school football teams to Little League baseball teams, can be the heart and soul of a community. They can also provide businesses with a great opportunity to support young athletes—as well as market to the crowd at sporting events.
Think outside of the box and purchase a teams’ uniforms or offer to host their awards ceremony. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of money and it can mean a lot to the players and community.
Support a local charity
Donate a portion of your profits to a charity that is important to the community, or volunteer your time to an organization.
Show how much you care about your city's residents by helping out when a local child becomes sick, or a family loses its home to a fire, or by hosting fundraisers and donating money. Many businesses find that being drop-off locations for charity collections, such as Toys for Tots or food bank drives, are another great way to give back and engage in social responsibility.
Host community meetings
Local groups often need places to meet where they won’t have to pay for their meeting space. Offer your conference room or the back room of your store for groups to have their meetings.
In addition to helping out the community, you'll establish a positive relationship with the members of that club or group, such that they'll think of you the next time they require your services.
Create a scholarship
Sending a child to college is a big expense for many families. Consider setting up a scholarship for a local student to attend a community college or university. Even a $500 scholarship can help a student pay for books or extra expenses.
Many businesses set up scholarships specifically for students who plan to pursue a career in their industry, while others open the application up to all district high school seniors.
Become a local expert
If you're known as the “go-to source” on a specific topic in your community, people will be more likely to come to your business when they need your assistance.
You can accomplish this by writing guest articles on your subject of expertise for local publications, volunteering to help local radio stations when they cover stories on your topic, etc.
Join the Chamber of Commerce
One of the best ways to get involved in the community is to join the local Chamber of Commerce and become an active member.
By joining forces with other business owners in your area, you can jointly create campaigns and make changes on issues such as road improvements and local taxes. Even more importantly, you will meet other business owners with whom you can share ideas.
Get involved in the school systems
Local schools are often one of the community's the most important resources, and supporting your schools is another great way to get involved.
Offer to speak to classes about your industry or host field trips to your business. Lend your expertise to help improve the school. For example, a web design company could update the school's the website, or a landscape business could create a new flower garden.
Give a discount for firefighters, police officers, military, and teachers
Since these professions are typically not highly paid, many of these workers are often on a fixed budget. By offering a discount on your products or services to those who devote their lives to the community, you are showing the town that you value these heroes as well.
Participate in festivals or local gatherings
Think about what events, parades and festivals are important to your community and then participate in these activities by sponsoring a float, setting up a booth or volunteering at the event.
Becoming a socially responsible community business isn’t something that happens overnight. It requires a concerted effort over time and, most importantly, a true passion for the community that you serve.