The life of a small business owner can be demanding, exhausting, and at times, discouraging. When you weave philanthropic passions into business, you can establish a connection to a cause greater than material profits, and in turn, fuel your determination to succeed. Here’s why contributing to causes through your business can help you grow your own potential—and a few ideas on how to get started.
Identify a cause that means something.
Small businesses who have some kind of social cause have a competitive advantage. When you connect with a cause that is truly genuine to your mission, you have a meaningful message that you can use to connect with customers. Having a cause also gives you the ability to form a unique brand identity that tells customers who you are, and what you stand for, beyond the tangible. As Olivia Khalili, founder of Cause Capitalism, a consulting firm dedicated to helping companies begin social programs, says, "mission is the new marketing." When companies genuinely incorporate a cause to their business that means something to them, their product or service, it’s a bridge of sorts that connects them on a deeper level to customers, and a community.
You have financial goals, and constraints, for your small business. You don’t need to be raking in profits, or even exceeding your sales goals in order to give back to a cause, provided you choose the right fit. For small businesses, Kalili suggests developing a cause-related partnership with a local or regional nonprofit or educational organization. Generally, these smaller, local non-profits are easier to get involved with in a meaningful way than larger, national causes, and have fewer partnership restrictions. Most will welcome nearly any level of support you can offer. If you are concerned that your business really doesn’t have spare money to donate, remember there are plenty of other ways to give that may be more impactful than financial support. For example, you might donate your time, skills, materials, or product. If you have a physical storefront, some non-profits may be thrilled to hold meetings at your facility after hours, or use your office equipment and supplies to support an upcoming event.
Reward good deeds.
If you have employees, create an internal charitable culture with volunteer program that allows employees the chance to support a cause of their choosing. For example, you might choose a different charity to support each quarter at the suggestion of staff, or designate a periodic "employee’s help day" where your team takes a day to volunteer for a local cause together. If your chosen cause is a natural "fit" to your customer base (for example, most people have been impacted in some way by cancer), you might consider designated "give back" days when you pledge a portion of the days’ profits to your cause. Use the event as a way to promote your mission to your customers, and spread the word within your community.
Think about your daily impact.
Your own operational and supply chain choices can also have a significant impact to a greater cause. For example, the ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s began sourcing brownies for ice cream from Greyston Bakery, a nonprofit organization that employed and trained hard to employ populations. By sustainably sourcing this one ingredient, Ben and Jerry’s was able to provide jobs to dozens of previously people who were chronically unemployed. In turn, that commitment set a precedent for the way they do business.