Growing Your Business by Engaging the Local Community
If you’re looking for the backbone of the economy, it might surprise you to learn that Main Street is as powerful as Wall Street. More than 30 million small businesses across the nation employ nearly 59 million people, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). That means small businesses employ nearly half of the U.S. workforce, and they do it without many of the resources afforded to large organizations.
The passion that drives small-business owners to succeed is the same motivation behind entrepreneurs and community engagement. Giving back to the community that supports you is the right thing to do, and putting a face to your business establishes your commitment.
Every community offers business owners ways to get involved. Deciding how and when to serve will depend on your mission and goals. One of the easiest ways is to become a sponsor of a festival, a charity event or a youth sports team. Find something in your neighborhood that speaks to you. Maybe that’s buying the shirts for a local peewee baseball league, or perhaps you want to sponsor a 5K run. There are many possibilities in most communities, and some of these organizations may even approach you when they need help.
Local schools or nonprofits are often looking for donations for their fundraisers. Giving a product or service can be a low-cost way of helping a community organization. You’ll also benefit by getting your business in front of potential customers and earning a tax break in the process.
Joining local business networking groups is a great way to meet other community members. Your chamber of commerce may host events where you can mingle with other area professionals. Or, you can join a larger organization such as BNI or LeTip. Attending an event or mixer gives you the opportunity to grow your professional circle and increase the opportunity for future partnerships.
Volunteering and Philanthropy
One of the best ways to serve the community is by donating your time and resources. Check the website VolunteerMatch to find organizations in need. Or, you can contact local shelters, food pantries, community houses or libraries. You could even give your employees a paid day off to volunteer as a team.
Another way to be involved in your community is to launch a philanthropic campaign. For example, you can start a food drive or collect gently used prom dresses to help out in-need teens. Or, donate a percentage of your profits from one day’s sales to a local charity. By asking your customers to participate, you can amplify your efforts.
Finally, create a scholarship at a local university or at your alma mater. As tuition costs rise, many students turn to scholarships or grants. You don’t have to give a lot; $500 or $1,000 would be a welcome award. You could narrow down the candidates, offering scholarships to students majoring in a subject involved in your industry.
Community Engagement Pays Off
Giving back to the community is an expression of faith and will also be good for your business in the long run. Not only will your efforts feel good; they’ll provide several benefits to your business as community responsibility is becoming more important to consumers.
Nearly 80% of Americans believe companies need to get beyond making money; they must have a positive influence on society as well, according to a study by Cone Communications. The report found that 77% of Americans feel a more powerful emotional bond to purpose-driven companies, and 66% would change from a product they usually purchase to a new one based on that preference.
“[Small-business owners] bring to the table something larger organizations can’t: an uncanny ability to connect locally with their communities. Walking down some of the streets where small businesses are located, you can see a mutual loyalty. The local businesses are scrappy and flexible. They fit their way into a community and become a critical part of it. And the communities really want to support those small businesses,” Ginger Siegel, North America small business lead at Mastercard International, noted on LinkedIn.