As posted in The Gaston Gazette:
(6/28/15) BELMONT, N.C. – We all know that volunteerism and generosity are valuable personal attributes, but they can also be a considerable boon to business owners. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, it’s a popular choice for businesses: 89 percent of entrepreneurs give back in some way. And, according to a May 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, it also matters to consumers: they found that 82 percent of consumers take corporate social responsibility into account when they are considering where to spend their money.
Here are just a few more reasons why it’s important – and, in fact, imperative – for businesses and their owners to give back to their communities:
- It gives your business a chance to connect with – and impact – your community. No business exists in a vacuum: We’re all located in and surrounded by communities, and all of them could use a little extra support. If you’re a small business, volunteering at your local soup kitchen or spearheading a charity fundraiser gives you an opportunity to meet people in the community who are or who can be customers and allows you to bond over a common need or concern. That ability to represent your business without pushing your agenda and to be a powerful community presence will tell the people in your community a great deal about your investment and your character – and will likely even mean a business boost.
- It shows your customers you mean what you say. Here’s a perfect chance to put your business’ core values to the test. Don’t just depend on your mission or vision statement or a tagline to do all of your work for you. By giving back to your community, you have the chance to show customers that you are willing to back those words with action. Do you use a word like “dedication” in your communication materials? Try dedicating yourself to a particular cause or non-profit, and then showcase your partnership in some way on your website or by co-sponsoring an event. Want to show that you really mean it when you claim that your business and your employees are “reliable?” Then make a commitment to a cause, and show up when they need you. By putting your money where your mouth is, you’ll prove that your words are your bond, and that’s something that any customer will value.
- It boosts employee morale. Just as customers value corporate social responsibility, so do employees. According to Entrepreneur magazine, giving employees an opportunity to give back helps to build employee morale and encourages the development of lasting and valuable employer/employee relationships. Not only do employees do a better job when their morale is high, but they also tend to want to stay in their jobs, and that kind of motivation and loyalty is invaluable for any employer. What could build those bonds even more is if you can find ways for employees to give back during work hours and to incentivize their participation in some way. If you can show your employees that you are dedicated to helping their community, you’re going to end up with a much happier workforce, which every customer will love to see.
- It expands your employees’ skill set. If you give your employees the opportunity to volunteer, chances are you’ll end up with a workforce that has an even stronger skill set than the one they brought to the job. Not only can employees can gain valuable leadership experience through volunteer work, but they can also learn a particular skill set that could come in handy in your own business. If they volunteer to work with people in a local soup kitchen, they will improve their customer service skills. If they volunteer their time with an organization that builds houses, they’ll learn valuable project planning and implementation skills. If they serve on a long-range planning committee, they’ll gain strategic business planning skills. The time they spend engaging with the community will not only give their resume, but also your business, an infusion of diverse and valuable experience.
- It can help you financially. It may seem counterintuitive, but giving back can actually have a positive impact on your bottom line: according to a study by Ernst & Young and the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, 62 percent of entrepreneurs say that giving back actually helps to make their companies more successful. Forbes also reports that there are a number of stories of businesses giving back and benefitting financially, chief among them people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who have pledged half of their wealth to charity. But even small businesses can benefit by aligning their charitable giving with their marketing efforts. Make it clear to the public that a certain percentage of your time or your profits go to fund a good cause – for example, TOM’s Shoes “1 for 1” campaign, which pledges that for every pair of shoes you buy, they give a pair to a child in need – and you are certain to have customers vying for your attention.
Although it may feel difficult to fit in charitable giving among all of your other responsibilities as a business owner, there’s no question that what you reap from that dedication of time and energy is worth the effort. And the knowledge that you’re helping to improve your community is a worthwhile bonus.
Lyerly Agency’s President and CEO Elaine Lyerly and Executive Vice President and COO Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette. See this month’s edition at http://bit.ly/1eGghFG.