Small businesses today create 2 out of every 3 new private sector jobs and employ half the private sector workforce. Many savvy businesses spend time in their local communities working for or with charitable organizations. They partner with other businesses to sponsor local nonprofits. And they continually solicit ideas from clients, employees and customers to help decide which charities to serve. Through these activities, small businesses build relationships with other organizations in their communities, relationships that grow as they plan events and come together to lend a helping hand to those in need. The results: greater community involvement, thriving small businesses and successful nonprofits. If you have a small business but you haven’t gotten involved with charitable giving, start now. Altruism can benefit both the receiver and the giver—there’s no shame in that!
Don’t Be Shy: Nonprofits Understand
You may feel timid because altruism is supposed to be the No. 1 reason for doing good deeds. But don’t be shy in approaching nonprofits with the idea that your business might benefit from supporting the organization’s efforts. Charitable organizations understand. They have managers and boards of directors who are often experienced professionals. Many possess the same business skills and desire to succeed that you do.
Before you approach a charity, have a solid understanding of who they are and what they do. (For ideas on choosing a charity, read this blog post by Alex Perdikis.) You might choose a company aligned with your business’s mission or the products you produce. For example, if you own a small organic pet food company, you might sponsor a local animal charity or rescue association. When you meet with the organization, find out what they need from you and tell them what type of publicity you might like in return. Naturally, there will be photos taken at any charity event, so you may as well take advantage! An agreement to post pictures and positive endorsements of the event on each other’s websites is a great starting point, and likely something the charity will want from you anyway. It’s a win-win!
Shake Hands & Kiss Babies
The truth is you probably shouldn’t kiss any stranger’s baby, but the networking sentiment remains: Once your business begins to work with charities, you’ll become familiar with people in the community who support the same causes you do. When you see these people, shake hands and tell them who you are. These are potential customers or business associates, and fundamentally, they’re part of your community. Hopefully, that handshake is the beginning of a relationship—sometimes all it takes to win a few more customers or business contracts is to have something good in common, like a mutual dedication to the same charitable cause. You don’t have to bombard the inboxes of everyone you meet with your upcoming sales announcements (though direct marketing to this group could be worth your while).
Hard-Wired For Giving
Some schools of thought maintain that true altruism means giving unselfishly, expecting nothing in return. If you haven’t heard, we just aren’t wired for that. No, we’re not inherently selfish; to the contrary, we are biologically programmed to give because it’s physiologically rewarding. Scientists have proven that volunteering for a good cause or doing small acts of kindness activates the reward systems in our brains. In fact, performing charitable acts affects two reward systems that work together—the midbrain VTA, which is also stimulated by food, sex, drugs and money, and the subgenual area, which is stimulated when humans see babies and romantic partners.
What does this science mean for a small business? On the most fundamental level, it means that if you create a workplace culture dedicated to charitable giving, you will have a happier workforce. This is especially true if you involve your employees and customers in charitable acts related to causes they are passionate about. Invite them to share charitable causes close to their heart by asking for their input on your business website or Facebook page. Set up a system where employees and people in the community alike can vote for the local charities or causes that are important to them. Then choose the two or three charities that get the highest number of votes. This will engage customers and employees on a personal level. Additionally, it will attract people to your website and increase your social media presence—just one more benefit of making charitable giving a priority for your small business.