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Thursday, November 8, 2012

6 Ways Small Businesses can Give Back to their Community

Research shows that giving back is important to small business: 89% of entrepreneurs donate money, both personally and through their companies, according to a study by Ernst & Young and the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund. What’s more: 62% say giving back makes their companies more successful in the long run.

But it’s not always easy for small businesses to give back to their communities. Owners and their employees are often short on time and low on funds. However, there are meaningful ways to give back that don’t involve shelling out lots of money or spending days working on pro-bono projects. Here are some ideas.

1. Organize an employee volunteer day.

You might lose a day of productivity, but coordinating a day or two each year when employees can volunteer together—perhaps to build a Habitat for Humanity house or cook for a homeless shelter—can be more cost-effective than writing a check. Bonus: Group activities outside the office often boost morale and camaraderie. 

2. Keep a collection close by.

Own a storefront business? Keep a collection for your favorite local charity at the front desk or cash register. Both employees and customers can drop in their spare change to effect change locally.  

3. Upsell on charity.

Customers might not have any spare change, so why not offer them other ways to give? Ask each customer if they want to round up their purchase (or donate a specific amount) to donate to the local animal shelter. Or announce storewide events where during certain times—say, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.—a certain percentage of sales goes to a local charity.  Bonus idea: Advertise that your business will match every contribution.

4. Get on a nonprofit board.

Offer your business or industry expertise to a local nonprofit by sitting on their board. This way, your contribution can be time (after work hours) and not money.

5. Create a contest.

Ask other small businesses of your size—perhaps on your block or within your office building—to compete with your business in a donations race. The company that raises the most money through their employees (and partners and friends) wins the contest. Collectively, you’ll be able to donate more to a local charity.

6. Donate to silent auctions.

Churches and schools often need gift certificates or merchandise they can sell for fundraising efforts.  

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