You may have heard the saying “small businesses are the heart of our communities,” but did you know they also power the economy? There are 30.2 million small business owners in the United States. To put this more into perspective, that translates to two out of every three jobs in the private sector. You are part of an army of hard-working Americans with the courage, hustle and vision to turn ideas into action.
Some think that being a business owner sounds glamorous. Let’s be real: it’s not easy. Every day, you’re wearing more than a dozen different hats as you perform day-to-day operations, meet monthly commitments and plan for growth. With all this going on, it’s no wonder you might overlook the positive impact your business has in the community and the benefits that giving back can in turn create.
A recent survey by the Better Business Bureau found that 84 percent of consumers trust small businesses more than large businesses. One of the greatest advantages small firms have over their larger competitors is a more intimate connection to the community. The visibility of small business owners and their employees in the local area shows that you are about more than just dollars and cents; visibility gives you a human quality.
Doing good is great for the community and your business. Here are seven reasons why you should integrate giving back into your growth plan.
1. It enhances your reputation.
When businesses help others in their community, those individuals are inclined to reciprocate and support the company in return. By putting your values into action and showcasing the heart of your business, you create an emotional connection with the community.
Studiesshow that almost all buying decisions rely heavily on emotion. No matter whether the transaction is large or small, we bring emotions from previous experiences to help us understand how we feel about our options and push us to take action. In fact, a recent Weber Shandwick study found that 46 percent of consumers buy from companies that make them feel good. Giving back in a meaningful way generates goodwill from everyone involved and helps you build a trustworthy, likeable reputation.
2. Giving back expands and richens your network.
There’s a saying, “your network is your net worth,” but most business owners see and interact with the same group of people on a regular basis. By getting involved in a charitable cause, you can explore beyond your typical business network. Doing so brings together diverse corporate professionals, business owners, government leaders, community influencers and prospective new customers in an atmosphere of shared goodwill that can lead to other opportunities.
3. It generates public relations and social media activity.
Giving back gets you noticed. Positive media coverage and the good PR it generates can help introduce you to new markets and target audiences, increasing awareness of who you are and jump-starting relationships with local reporters and editors.
On the social front, people love reading about and sharing feel-good stories, particularly those concerning their hometown. Posting stories about your community efforts, and celebrating the impact you achieved with your employees, customers and partners, increases the likelihood of your followers sharing your posts in a word-of-mouth effect.
4. Giving back bolsters employee recruitment and retention.
Being a positive force in the community helps you earn something immeasurable from your employees: RESPECT. Who wouldn’t want to work for a company known for contributing to a greater purpose? This is a source of pride for employees. Nearly 60 percent of employees who are proud of their employers’ social responsibility are more engaged in their jobs, which translates to better output and productivity. Furthermore, giving employees an avenue to give back and improve their communities, alongside their colleagues, can multiply the impact.
Giving back can also help you attract top talent, especially millennials. Three-quarters of millennials take into consideration a prospective employer’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.
Today’s consumers are exposed to more than 10,000 brand messages a day from venues ranging from traditional mediums such as print, radio and TV to newer platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat. That’s a lot of content, and in the era of the eight-second consumer attention span, it’s tough to stand out and get noticed.
Your community efforts create a new reason to engage with customers. By finding out what causes they care about and supporting them, you can connect on something that truly matters to them, while improving their perception of you and raising their awareness of your services and products.
Consumers expect more from companies they choose to do business with than ever before. They want to feel like they are helping to make the world a better place and using the power of their dollars to reward businesses that help them achieve that. A 2018 study across eight global markets, including the United States, found that 64 percent of consumers are belief-driven buyers, meaning they would choose, switch, avoid or boycott brands based on issues that matter to them. With consumers across regions, generations and income levels, willing to pay more and drive further for brands that support causes they care about, giving back is a way to set your business apart and validate your customers’ buying decisions.
About 75 percent of small business owners contribute to local charities or do community service close to home. In fact, when they do give, they give an average of $789 per employee, compared to $334 at businesses with more than 500 employees. Why? Because helping make their community stronger, more vibrant and more resilient is good for their employees, customers, partners and suppliers. It helps the local economy, which means more dollars get cycled back into local initiatives.
Ultimately, running your business comes down to the bottom line. You must be financially viable to keep the doors open and to get the opportunity to devote time and resources to doing good. Rather than treating your company’s objectives and aspirations for social good as trade-offs, integrate doing good into your business plan. Align these two goals so that as your business grows, what you give back can also grow. By taking a profit and purpose approach, giving back can become a more sustainable, year-round effort that’s deeply embedded in your identity and operations, letting you achieve a meaningful impact on the minds and hearts of your employees, customers and community.