We all like to do what we can to give back to our communities. As a business, big or small, there are always ways you can do this within your means. From direct donations, volunteering your time, to raising awareness, there are so many things you can do as a business owner to give back to your community.
If you’re looking for a way for your business to give back in a way that aligns with your values and really makes an impact, we have a few tips for you. As business owners, we should be sure that we are being transparent and honest with our audience about our giving, and not just using it as a way to get more sales and better PR for our business. Having true intentions to help is key to really making an impact. A more loyal customer base and better brand recognition in the community comes along naturally if you’re giving back in a sincere way.
Ways to give back
Direct donations: This is when you donate directly from your business to an organization or cause with cash. Direct donations can be done in a few different ways. For example, you could run a promotion on a product or service where a portion of your profits will go to the cause of your choosing instead of back to your business. You could also just donate a chunk of cash you have available. This kind of giving back really makes a huge impact. Cash is often the most useful resource for organizations to make change.
Volunteering time: This is when you are giving your time instead of your money. It also is often used as a team bonding or icebreaker exercise too, as you can get your whole crew to come together to give back.
Raising awareness: This is where you use your platform to bring awareness to issues, educating your audience about the subject. You might create some merchandise specific to a cause, or just run a social media campaign. Maybe you have a blog where you are educating your readers about a cause. Raising awareness can lead to mobilizing more people to care about a certain issue, leading them to giving back.
Sponsorship: This is where you financially support an event for an organization. Events can be expensive to host, and organizations that hold trade shows, live music events, fundraisers, etc, are often looking for sponsors to help them with the costs of the event. By having a sponsor for their event, they can give more back to the cause and community. When you sponsor an event, you often get great exposure with your branding appearing in front of the event’s audience.
Goods donations: This is where you are donating things to an organization. You may use your audience to collect donations, or maybe just your staff. Some great examples of this are winter clothing drives, or adopting a family during the holiday season (though there are families that need help all year round!). If your business has excess or some product to donate, you may also be able to donate from your own stock, depending on what kind of business you have.
Skill donation: This is where you give back by donating your skills, giving for free something that an organization or cause would benefit from and normally have to pay for. Typically this would be a skill that you are an expert in and normally would charge for. It’s similar to volunteering your time, but can be more helpful as it is a specific skill that is needed by the organization. For example, as a barber, you could give haircuts and shaves to houseless people and people made vulnerable who can’t afford it. Or as a lawyer, give free consults to people who need legal advice and can't afford it.
Making sure you’re giving back in a way that works for your business
You shouldn’t just be picking organizations and causes at random, and make sure you’re not just jumping on what’s popular at the time. You should be sure that the cause you are giving back to aligns with your businesses values. If you’re interested in also promoting your business, you should make sure that the cause you are supporting is something that your audience really cares about. Say you are an eco-friendly retail shop, donating to something that helps the environment makes sense.
It is amazing to be able to give back, but also make sure you know when your business is capable of doing so and doing so in a capacity that your business is able to. You can’t give back more if you don’t exist anymore! Finding a way to give back that works for your business model and for your business could mean not doing as much as you would like, but making sure you’re working on your business so you will be able to give back in a more impactful way in the future! Write down your ideas and goals for giving back, creating a vision board of where you want your business to be.
Tips to give back the right way
Be transparent: This is extremely important. You want to show your audience the whole process. If you are giving direct donations, show your receipts! Post them all over so people can see you've really done what you said you would be doing. If you’re donating your skill, capture the moment! Yes, it makes a great photo op, but a video or photo is a really great way to be transparent with your audience about what you're doing, and showing that you're doing what you said you would. Not only does being transparent give you more content to post, but shows your audience you are serious about what you said and you followed through. You want to walk the talk.
Give back where it will make a real difference: As small business and local community lovers, we always tell people to give back as close to their community as possible. We believe real change happens at a local level, and you can make the most impact to people in your own neighbourhood. Instead of donating to a large charity, why not find a small local cause. Many mutual aid and local organizations are really working to address the communities needs, and can put money and donations to work better then large charities.
Give back to those who need it more: When picking a cause or organization, think about who in your community needs help the most. Typically these are people who are marginalized in our community like BIPOC, those who are stigmatized like those with addictions, or those who need more support to survive in a world not built for them like disabled people. Again, mostly mutual aid and local organizations address injustice better than larger charities.
Don't take credit for donations from your customers and audience: We see this all too often with big corporations: at the check out, they ask you if you want to donate a small amount to a cause, then they sign over a big check to that organization - but it was really a bunch of little donations of people like you that made up that huge donation! There's nothing wrong with crowdsourcing donations, but just be truthful about it.
Ideas for giving back to the community as a small business in Calgary
1. Volunteer your time with or make good donations to The Table YYC.
2. Give weekly grocery donations to The Calgary Community Fridge.
3. Donate a portion of your profits to The DOAP team at the Alpha House.
4. Give resume editing sessions to anyone who is currently unemployed in Calgary and looking for work.
5. Become a sponsor of a CJSW radio show.