11/17/2012 9:59:00 PM Community involvement - good for the public, good for small business
By TOM Roegge SCORE Counselor
Question: Many different organizations have approached me to support them, but I don't have limitless funds. Can SCORE offer some ideas on how to support my community without putting a big dent in the budget?
Answer: Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an important issue for businesses today. But CSR isn't just for large companies. Small businesses have a long and proud tradition of "making a difference," especially at the local, community level.
Additionally, the benefits of community involvement go beyond a simple, warm feeling because you supported a worthy cause. Community involvement increases the profile of your business, creates a positive buzz, and opens the door for new networking opportunities. These activities can also reinforce employee morale, fostering a spirit of teamwork and collaboration that can enhance on-the-job performance.
A good starting point for finding opportunities for community involvement ideas is through your local chamber of commerce. They frequently sponsor events that offer opportunities for advertising or in-kind service donations. And nothing beats the chance to meet and network with fellow small business owners!
Civic groups and charitable organizations also provide great sources of community activities. Think about sponsoring a youth sports team, 5K races, and parade floats. Contributing to food drives and roadside clean-ups along with giveaways, stamped with your business's name and logo, are effective and have potentially endless possibilities.
"I really enjoy the intangible benefit of giving," says Susan Ward writing for www.sbinfocanada.about.com. "Giving back to the community gives you a pleasant feeling of connectedness and the satisfaction of at least trying to make the world a better place.
"There are tangible benefits to giving back to the community, too. For one thing, if you give enough, you'll be able to use the charitable deduction on your income tax. For another, giving back to the community can raise your business' profile and even bring you more customers or clients."
Community and charitable events almost always require volunteers, so why not encourage your employees to pitch in? Many will do so willingly, but offering an incentive, such as a few hours off to compensate for their time, could inspire them to continue their support even after the event or project is over. Supplying custom T-shirts or hats will reinforce the teamwork bonds, and provides another way for your business to stand out.
Check with your area schools. Especially after the many cuts to education that Arizona has experienced, sport teams and extracurricular activities are seeking donors and sponsors. Look for a direct tie-in to the products or services your business offers. A clothing store might do something related to fashion design, while math and science-related activities would be ideal for an engineering firm.
Be creative in your approach; consider hosting a "shadow student" who spends the day at your business for a taste of the "real world." If you're a one-person business you can still be as much a part of your community as your town's largest employer. Think about volunteering for an event or a school program, donating money or supplies to a local charity or animal shelter. You could even "adopt" a small park by regularly picking up trash or help out in the community garden.
Not only will these groups actively thank their sponsors, but consider issuing a press release about your involvement and remember to mention it on your Facebook page and in Twitter. Just be sure the community event does not take a back seat to your business.
Contact your SCORE counselor. Northern Arizona SCORE mentors nonprofits as well as for-profit businesses and they know many of the organizations that are looking for volunteers.
Northern Arizona SCORE, a Small Business Administration resource partner, has experienced professionals providing free business counseling to start-ups and existing small business clients to improve profitability. Want a free business mentor? Check out our website http://northernarizona.score.org. Or just give us a call at 1-800-410-2260.