As a small business owner or manager, sometimes the sheer volume of things that need to be done makes it hard to remember to think about others. It's important, however, to give back to your community. In fact, if you own a small business that draws on local customers, it's important to do things that strengthen your bonds with your community.
Not all of these apply to every type of small business. A retail store can do things that a small service-based business can't, but at least one of these should apply to your business.
1. Have a charity day
When I ran a large, independently owned toy store, we set Thursdays in October aside for charity days. We reached out to causes that various employees cared about, and gave 5% of all register sales to the nonprofits that participated.
This brought in new customers, and it exposed customers to the work being done by the nonprofits (which handed out literature or set up a table to answer questions). In some cases, the amounts raised were significant, as shoppers came in to do early Christmas shopping to benefit a cause they cared about.
2. Have a volunteer day
My wife has spent much of her life working at various nonprofits, and one of them holds a day each year when its partner corporations let employees do volunteer work. The nonprofit organizes work projects -- everything from cleaning up parks to helping housebound senior citizens. But any company can find people who need help and then arrange time for employees to provide it.
3. Give employees pro-bono hours
If you have a service business, you can allow employees to take a certain amount of hours to volunteer their specific skills. This could mean helping a nonprofit file its tax forms or offering massages to the tired workers at a soup kitchen. If people are paying you for your services, there are almost certainly other people who could use them for free.
4. Have a donation drive
At the toy store, we made a passion project out of collecting holiday gifts for kids in need. We offered discounts for customers who donated and added in-demand toys to the effort. Even something as small as putting out a collection jar for a local charity can help.
Be creative and generous
Remember that as a small business owner, you are part of the community. Work to take care of those around you, and your customers and potential customers will see that. Be kind and do what you can -- not because it will benefit you, but because it's the right thing to do. Ultimately, that will pay off, and you will be doing your part to make where you are a better place.
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