Anne-Marie Saint-John, Alva, Long Island City, NY >
Being socially responsible is a good thing to do. Regardless of how much time, effort, or money you put into this, if you’re doing something, then you’re doing something of value.
As a small business or solopreneur, there isn’t always a big budget available for donations when you’re starting out. However, as we’re going to explain in this post, community giving is about so much more than simply giving out cash to worthy causes in your area. In fact, there are lots of ways you can give back to your community without needing to part with any cash; in this post, we explain what those are and how you can get started.
While some of the things in this list involve funding, there are others that require only a time commitment. Deciding which is best for you and your business will be determined by a number of individual factors; there is no right or wrong way to give back. The very act of doing something and investing in your community is enough.
#1 – Volunteer Work
This is something that almost anyone can do for any community project they want to support. As a small business, you can encourage employees to volunteer on their own time, or you can sponsor them to volunteer during business hours on either a full-time or 50/50 time-match basis. Regardless of the inner workings, encouraging people to help the projects and causes they care about and supporting them with time off work or time in lieu of work is a great way to give back to your community without having to donate cash, which isn’t always readily available to smaller companies.
#2 – Apprenticeships and Placements
Offering apprenticeships or local work placements to youths or unemployed individuals is a great way of giving back to the community. While the emphasis here is on giving back by offering a meaningful experience to learners and those looking to gain new skills, this can really help you to strengthen your links with the community you are a part of.
#3 – Free Training
Yes, you heard right, we did say free. As a small business with a specific skill set, there are always going to be ways you can help others, with knowledge transfer or simply by helping them understand a topic in more detail. For instance, if you are a local marketing agency, you might not be able to give away training on all of the elements of the services you offer. However, you could offer a free webinar to help other local businesses set up and manage their social media pages. You might also be able to offer free training that helps people learn about Google Local SEO, using Google Ads, or something similar.
There’s always going to be something you know that you can offer to others to help them out. Who knows, when these other local business owners or solopreneurs grow their businesses, they may well remember who helped them at the start of their journey and come back full circle to use your services in the future.
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#4 – Sponsoring a Local Team or Initiative
This is always a nice thing to do in a community, and it means you can truly give a little back by sponsoring a team or initiative that is connected to you, your team, or the area you service. This could be sponsoring a green or eco-themed project, helping to sponsor a local sports team, donating items to the team, or even buying pizza or paying for a game of bowling for them.
#5 – Sharing Your Space
This depends on the space you have available at the time, and of course, it is only relevant to those businesses that have physical space to offer. You might be able to offer a meeting room, restaurant, or your outdoor space to the community to use for events, fundraisers, or meetings. Aside from helping a local nonprofit to save money, it can also give your business a little more visibility within the community.
#6 – Be Local, Buy Local
The title says it all, really. This is about local businesses supporting other local businesses. You may have heard the term “shop local,” which is often used to encourage people to shop at their local independent stores instead larger multinationals. If you need to use another company’s services, a great way to give back to your community is by choosing local firms to work with.
#7 – Skill Sharing
This is a principle that has really taken off in some parts of the country and is often referred to as time banking. Essentially, everyone has a skill or the time to help another person or business. No money is ever exchanged. The only currency used is time. It gives people the opportunity to share their skills to help others, and everyone in the program agrees to donate a specific amount of time each month or quarter. Each person’s time is valued equally. For example, you might be able to help people by offering to write their CV or proofread their website, and another skill sharer might be able to assist with website development or dog walking.
It takes a community to make something like this work, but the benefits of getting involved or even taking the lead to set up a scheme like this are incredible for any community, along with the participants.
For more information about a local time bank in your area, take a look at the timebanks.org site.
#8 – Giving Back with Every Sale
This point is pretty quick and easy to implement. As a business, you agree to donate x% of your sales or profits to a chosen community nonprofit, group, or project. The exact percentage you decide on is up to you, as is the group or project you decide to support. There’s a lot less time involved, so it makes a great choice for those who don’t necessarily have the spare hours or manpower to donate but who want to do something to give back to their community.
#9 – Planning or Sponsoring an Annual Community Event
The final idea on this list is probably one of the grander gestures, but it can also be incredibly rewarding for all involved. Where you live and what events you already have on the calendar will determine your options. Also, note that you can plan an annual community event without sponsoring it, and you can sponsor an annual event without necessarily needing to plan it as well.
From local fetes to competitions, annual intercommunity competitions, a local half-marathon or 5K run, or even a local scarecrow or Thanksgiving trail, the possibilities for new community event ideas are endless. If your town already does a lot and you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, you can simply sponsor an annual event, or you can approach the town’s authorities or community groups about the prospect of starting a new event from scratch.
It doesn’t matter how much time, how many people, or how much money is on the table; by trying to do something positive in your community, your business is giving back. We hope you have been able to find some inspiration in this post for your small business, and if you do take action, we’d love to hear about the ways you have helped enrich your community by supporting others, their events, or their projects!
P.S. If you have an idea to add to this list, we’d love to hear from you too.