If you are a small business owner who doesn’t share all the ways you are giving back to your community, you could be missing out on a larger impact your good deeds can achieve. seedership Co-founder Jennifer Smithberger discusses the greater opportunities small businesses can obtain when they make their good visible and transparent.
What opportunities are small business owners overlooking by not sharing the ways they are doing good?
JENNIFER SMITHBERGER: If businesses are already doing good in their community, that’s wonderful. Their contributions help support important local causes and charities. However, the ripple effect of the good they do can extend much further when they share and make their contributions visible.
First, they’re missing out on the opportunity to solve a need for customers. Customers today want their everyday purchasing dollars to do more than just buy a product or service – they also want them to make a difference and provide a community value. They are more likely to choose, be loyal to and advocate for businesses that help them support a cause they feel good about.
A Cone Communications CSR study found that nearly 70% of consumers would switch from a product they normally buy to one that helps them do good. That figure jumps to 90%+ when millennials are polled. Are small businesses willing to potentially lose customers by not sharing something they are already doing?
Second, by not sharing, they are missing the opportunity to drive awareness for causes they are passionate about. We all know the power of a positive customer review. When small businesses support a nonprofit, they are extending the trust they have earned from their customers to these organizations and helping them spread awareness for their work.
Finally, in seedership’s most recent small business kindness study, we discovered the main reason small businesses give back is to improve their communities. In discussions with small business owners, they’ve shared that getting some an ROI for their business is not the motivating factor. However, the good they do can also serve to differentiate their brand and boost their growth. Earning a return for their business does not take away from the value it achieves for the community. In the long run, if their business is stable and profitable, they are in a better position to give back more and make that giving sustainable.
If there are so many benefits, why are small business owners reluctant to openly share about their giving?
JENNIFER: When I’ve asked this question in conversations with small businesses owners, many times I get the short and simple answer that “it’s just the right thing to do.” Small businesses start as seeds, and they require the support of their customers to sprout and grow. As a result, owners have a genuine desire to pay it forward to their communities for helping to make their dreams come true. It’s where they live and work, where their children go to school and where their neighbors are their friends. Giving is an extension of who they are as individuals – and it’s often personal and authentic.
With that in mind, many of us are brought up with the concept that we shouldn’t expect anything in return when we give; so, it’s only natural to feel uncomfortable talking about the good we do. Small businesses perhaps fear giving the impression that they are doing good solely to make a profit.
So, how do you change that mentality?
JENNIFER: It’s not so much about change, rather broadening their perspective to see that the good they do can help bring to life their business’ values, its community commitment and inspire a greater wave of kindness. By making their good visible they can achieve far greater impact, and isn’t that the ultimate goal?
As small businesses, they likely have limited resources and time to how much they can do. But, fortunately, giving thrives with collaboration and participation. For example, collection drives and fundraisers tend to be popular. These activities can be done with just their teams, or they can also invite their vendors, suppliers, partners, clients and their communities too? Then the power of aggregation works in their favor as the contributions of all these groups add up to a much bigger impact.
Sharing the good they do makes it possible for others to join and take part in a larger purpose. Their small businesses can serve as platforms for good, forces for change and builders of their communities.
What advice do you have to make it easier or more natural for small business owners to talk about what they’re doing.
JENNIFER: It’s always easier for us to talk about things we are passionate about. So, choose to support causes and charities you have a genuine personal connection with, those that align with your business or are causes your employees and customers care about. Then make it clear and visible for customers to understand the “why” or motivation behind your giving choices. This allows customers to see and feel the connection and authenticity of your giving.
The next tip is around how to frame your community giving stories. Stay away from anything that sounds like, “look what I did.” Here are a few options:
🌱 Focus on the cause or the charity. Describe why the cause you’ve chosen to support matters and how the charitable work of the nonprofit you’ve partnered with is making a difference.
🌱 Spotlight the people doing the good. Who are the doers in the story? Who is volunteering or making the donations – employees, customers, neighbors or partners? Celebrate their individual and collective efforts and give them the credit for what your small business achieved in the community.
🌱 Make the recipient of the good the hero. Describe who you are trying to help and why you are passionate about them. We saw this a lot in 2020, when so many businesses united around supporting those on the frontlines of COVID-19.
What are the best ways for small business owners to take action?
JENNIFER: Considering the year, we’ve just had – now is the time for small businesses to lead by example and take steps to inspire the values they want to see in their communities. To make their good visible, they must show what they are doing and present it in a manner that is easy for customers to understand.
Forty percent of people will leave a website that takes longer than three seconds to load. Immediacy and transparency are the norm. Customers don’t want to waste time hunting for your community giving content buried in your website or lost in a busy social media feed. Rather make it easy to find and present it in an organized, visual manner to encourage customers to explore and engage.
Small businesses can make customers feel good about choosing to do business with them. After all, the reason they can do good in the first place is because of their customers’ support. This is an opportunity to deepen those relationships in a meaningful way, simply by sharing their “do-good” moments and making customers a part of their positive community impact.
How does the seedership platform help enable business owners accomplish all of this?
JENNIFER: The seedership platform was specifically built for small businesses. Simplicity is at the core of our design. There are three core functionalities:
The first one is measurement. Our act tracking system makes it quick for them to get an inventory and value of everything they give back – every dollar, item and minute – in real time. It is not uncommon for them to underestimate or undervalue the full impact of what they do in their communities. Tracking helps them see their total investment back as all their small, consistent acts of kindness add up over time.
Measurement is also important because small businesses want to be transparent with their communities and their customers about all they are doing. They can differentiate their giving and build trust by openly revealing exactly how and what they give.
The second functionality is the aggregation and visualization of all their good in one view. Our platform organizes all small businesses’ giving stories in one centralized location (an interactive digital profile) that they can easily share across their social platforms, their websites, emails, RFPs and invoices. It makes it easy for people to see everything they are doing, all the individual moments that together build a larger community story.
The last piece is reporting and analytics on their giving. This is an area we will continue to develop, but our goal is to help small businesses identify trends and insights, so they can align their giving with the causes that matter most to their key stakeholders.
What final advice or guidance can you offer small business owners?
JENNIFER: Customers today want their dollars to mean more. They want to feel like they’re making a difference. They want price, they want quality, they want service – but they also want to know they are helping improve their communities.
When small businesses are giving back and investing in their communities, they are giving customers what they want. It’s not anything new – 2020 just made it more of a priority. People will drive further, pay a little bit more, and put a little more effort into finding the businesses that gives them the product or service they want and provides them with the satisfaction that they are making a difference.
What better way for small businesses to deepen their relationships, grow trust and inspire loyalty than by doing good with their customers?