Small business people are among the most passionate, idealistic people out there. After all, how could you be anything but if you are willing to quit a more traditional job, forgo your benefits, follow your passion, take out a loan, open up shop, find and serve your new customers, and believe you will be profitable and happy? I would consider that fairly idealistic – in the best sense of the word.
So it may be no surprise that small business owners are among the most active people in terms of giving back to their communities. After all, it is the community that supports these businesses, the community that makes up their employees and customers, and it is the community that keeps them in business.
How do they give back, and how can you? Here are nine great ways:
1. Become a mentor: One of the real problems with all of the educational cutbacks is that young people have fewer opportunities to mingle with mentors. Teachers and coaches are spread thin, and after-school activities are disappearing. Kids need mentors.
One place you, or your business, can make a great difference is by getting involved with schools. Mentoring students, not only about business and entrepreneurship, but also about life, would be invaluable.
And while we are at it, let’s not stop there. Mentoring older people as well, especially those just starting in business, is equally beneficial. You can do this through your local chamber of commerce, trade organization or SCORE (www.score.org)
2. Sponsor: Sponsor a little league team. Sponsor a concert. Co-sponsor a big event. Sponsor public television. The value of sponsoring is two-fold:
- First, due to lean budgetary times, being a sponsor is often the difference between an event happening or never getting off the ground. You will be a local hero.
- Sponsoring is an excellent way to soft sell your business. People will see your sponsorship signs and associate you with the good feelings they have about the event. It is branding, selling and impressing all rolled into one.
3. Hire a vet: Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home now, and they need work. In fact, unemployment among veterans, especially young veterans, is extraordinarily high. Frighteningly high.
And the ironic thing is that these folks make great employees. They have learned how to take direction, think independently, work hard, be a team and focus on the big picture and accomplish goals. What else could you want from an employee?
4. Hire an intern: Students need to learn skills and get recommendation letters. You need to get work done and don’t want to spend a lot of money. It sounds like a match made in heaven, right?
5. Offer discounts to the elderly: We don’t need to make a profit on every sale to make a profit. By offering a senior citizen discount, you help seniors, and they will become loyal customers and recommend your business.
And not only that, it feels good.
6. Offer in-kind contributions: If you sell widgets, consider offering your widgets to different non-profits in the area. They would welcome the help and it would probably cost you little.
7. Giving a percentage of your sales to charity: You would be surprised at how many small businesses make this a part of their regular business practice. Some set aside around 5% of profits for charitable giving. Yes, you can deduct this, but better, it builds goodwill and good karma.
8. Offer health and wellness programs for employees: Like so many things on this list, there are both selfish and selfless benefits that come from doing the right thing. Helping your employees become healthier is good, and it may also cut down on your health care costs.
9. Go green: Greening your business is easier than ever. It saves the planet, can cut your costs, and definitely impresses a certain segment of the population. For example, did you know that there is a green alternative to the Automobile Club? It offers roadside auto and bicycle assistance, among many other eco-benefits. If you look, there are lots of similar programs.
These are just a few different ways you can help make a difference in your community. Below, share how you give back (or would like to) with the SBOC community.
About Steve Strauss
Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.