Sure, there’s some marketing and PR points to be gained from giving back to your community this season. In fact, companies such as Tom’s shoes base their whole business model on it. But a boost in marketing is only a tangential reward of philanthropy.
Small business owners looking to pursue charitable ventures should do so for a reason likely similar to why they started a business to begin with — to bring something better to the world. As a small business owner, you are a community leader. Charitable giving is good for business, not because it creates a positive image around your brand, but because it helps to build your brand’s reputation. It inspires your employees and improves morale. It changes the world for the better.
If your business is looking to give back this year, keep reading for 7 inspirational ideas.
1. Personal Item & Clothing Drives
If it’s starting to get cold where you live, try getting in touch with a local shelter and ask how you can get involved with their clothing drives. In New England, more than 200 businesses collect coats as donations from the public. These are then distributed to children and the homeless to help keep them warm through the cold, winter months.
2. Feed the Hungry & Food Drives
In addition to collecting clothes, collecting canned foods to donate to food pantries is helpful and easy to do. If you run a restaurant, bakery or similar business, there are also ways for you to donate excess perishable food. Through the Food Donation Connection, you can contribute with food that would otherwise go unsold and spoil.
You don’t have to stop there! Visit your local soup kitchen and lend a helping hand. Encourage your employees to do the same and you could make a really big difference in your community
3. Adopt A Highway
Adopting a stretch of highway is a popular way for businesses to help keep their communities looking great, and gain some exposure at the same time. Don’t feel limited to just highways. Get creative! Identify an area in your community you’d like to see improved and get in touch with your community center or city hall to see how you can get involved. Will you turn that vacant lot across the street into a softball field? Build a playground for your local Boys & Girls Club? Or maybe you could sponsor a Soofa.
4. Toy Drives
The holiday season is right around the corner and there are, sadly, lots of families who can’t afford to buy toys for their kids. Get in touch with a charity that does toy drives, like Toys for Tots to see how your company can get involved.
5. Book Drives
How many perfectly good books do you have lying around that you know you aren’t going to read again? Most people have a few at least. Partnering with projects like REACH-A-Child makes it easy to get unused books into the hands of readers.
6. Support the Troops
As many as 10,800 U.S. troops will still be in Afghanistan by the New Year. Show your support by sending them a care package through Operation Shoebox. If your company is upgrading cell phones this year, you can donate old ones to programs like Cell Phones for Soldiers. This program sells refurbished phones in order to buy calling cards for troops, so they can call home on the holidays.
7. Adopt A Family
If you want to make a more direct impact, consider adopting a family. “The Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family program allows for your group or organization to collect toys and food for an entire family at Christmas. The program encourages the purchase of additional items that the adopted family might need such as personal hygiene and cleaning products, clothing, shoes, etc.” If you choose to go this route, you even have the opportunity to personally deliver food and gifts to your beneficiary. This gives you the opportunity to make a personal, helpful connection.
Get Started Today
Now that you’ve seen some great, easy ways your business can give back this year, start thinking about which opportunities interest you the most.
First, take a look at your community and determine how you can best give back. Bring your employees into the decision — find out what causes and charities are close to them and include their recommendations in the planning process. Finally, decide what you’ll contribute. Will you be offering time, products, or services to help out? Or do you prefer to go with donations of money or goods?
However you choose to proceed, if you keep an open heart and support a cause you believe in, there’s no way you can go wrong.