Keys for Change: Small Businesses Making a Big Impact (Part 2)
Connor's Collision Center of Richmond, Virginia, was looking for a way to build a charitable culture in their business, so they launched the "Recycled Rides" program and began donating rehabbed vehicles to individuals nominated by the community.
In part 1 of this series, we explored the story of one changed life (Georgette Carter) and the way businesses are strengthened through innovative corporate giving.
What about your business?
Maybe you can't rehab cars, but every company can give back in some way! That starts with a desire to grow in generosity and a plan to carry that out. Unfortunately, some business owners pull back from giving because they find themselves strained by the number of needs or a plethora of last-minute requests. To grow in giving, they need a narrowed support focus to help them move ahead.
Identify Brand-Extending Areas of Support
Smaller companies may find it helpful to develop target giving priorities that relate to their mission or their brand.
These funding priorities can be publicized through an application process which sifts out casual candidates and allows employees managing requests to process them in a scheduled, thoughtful manner. As you narrow your giving focus (i.e. schools, sustainable community solutions), key in on priorities that are close at heart and well-suited for both your brand and your community.
Greg O'Neill, co-owner of four Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine shops in Chicago, said this strategic giving shift was key for their company:
"Small businesses get inundated [with requests] and it's really hard to say no. We're a bulls-eye for anyone and everyone looking for donation, sponsorship, philanthropy and giving of any kind. A lot of businesses say yes, yes, yes and give until it hurts."
O'Neill's team implemented an application process, identified sustainable agriculture and feeding programs as a funding priority, and scheduled key deadlines for recipients. As a result, the number of requests declined and the number of meaningful partnerships increased.
"We tend to do fewer one-off donations now," O'Neill says, "and instead we create more relationships."
If your company chooses to donate to causes outside key funding priorities, there are additional strategies to make your contribution stretch farther than the gift itself:
- Offer coupons for high-dollar products or services that don't cost much to your company
- Consider in-kind gifts and allow employees to use workday hours to participate
- Rather than just giving cash, reach out to your best sales rep. Buy a case of one good item from them and donate it to the event or cause
- Host a yearly contest where your community or employees can submit nominations for someone needing a hand. Document the results and include them in your newsletter or company Christmas card to spread the holiday cheer!
As you seek to give strategically, here are four questions to consider:
1. What brand extending areas will you support?
2. How can you publicize your giving priorities in a way that structures the giving process and streamlines requests?
3. How can you affirm employees who go the extra mile to give beyond the walls of your office?
4. How can your compassion be print-recognized (i.e. banners or photo murals) to make it a more mutually beneficial partnership?
Your charitable efforts may be humble, but they are unique to you and they make a tangible difference in your community. While generosity begins in the heart, often innovative community support begins with your business!