Big companies tend to give back on an impersonal level. They might be major contributors to various charities, but those efforts might not impact your community on a grassroots level.

As a small business owner, you have the ability to see where real need exists. Since you interact with the people who live where your business is, you can find out who needs help and step up to offer it.

That could mean contributing cash to a local Little League team for the equipment it needs, or donating goods or services to those who are struggling. You can also donate exposure by letting nonprofits reach out to your customers, or you can offer a share of your proceeds to a community group over a given period of time.

Giving back sometimes means being creative and finding ways to help that a bigger company might not be able to identify. Whether you're in the service or retail sector, making charity a pillar of your business will strengthen your ties to the community. Here are three ways to do it:

A person holds a jar with coins in it  that says charity

Being active in charitable causes can bring positive attention to your business. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Lend exposure

If you have a storefront, you can help a nonprofit simply by offering it a table to show off what it does. You could also match donations by your customers or kick in a share of all sales made that day.

Service businesses may not have the customer flow needed for an on-site display to make sense. Instead, consider an email appeal to your customers on behalf of worthy charities.

2. Give goods or services

It's very rare that a nonprofit can't use nearly anything you can give it. Goods can be used as raffle prizes, giveaways at events, or to serve the mission of the organization. If you're a service business, donate time. That might mean offering free hours of whatever service you provide, or it could mean simply volunteering to help wherever needed.

3. Share your ad space

If you partner with a nonprofit, it can be mutually beneficial to make that part of your marketing message. Even a simple tagline like "Joe's Pizza is a proud supporter of the Clarksville Animal Rescue League" can raise awareness. You can take it a step further by promoting an event held by a charity or advertising a time period during which you will donate a share of sales to your partner charity.

Find the need

While there will likely never be a shortage of needy nonprofits, you should identify where you can do the most good. That might mean helping a cause that's related to your business (like donating toys at holiday time if you own a toy store), or you can find a nonprofit that's run by or affiliated with an important customer.

Look for ways you can help that bigger companies might miss. Try to find causes that impact the community and your customers directly, then be as generous as you can. That will pay off in numerous ways as you tighten your bonds with your customers (and maybe reach some people who will decide to give you a chance).

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