There’s more to building positive street cred than a catchy commercial, a snazzy brand name or a top-selling product. Corporate social responsibility has become a way for companies to stand out and show concern for matters other than boosted sales. For some businesses, giving back to the community goes beyond a few Saturday afternoon fundraisers. Even so, efforts must be authentic and thoughtful to be worthwhile.
“Making a difference” has become the preferred term for charitable efforts, but as a business owner, you don’t have to invent an earth-shattering way to give back to those around you. At the same time, you want to do something besides making yearly United Way donations. Here are three additional ways to help out the communities you call home.
1. Support Local Nonprofits
What constitutes a community goes beyond a shared dot on the map. People come together because of common values, experiences and world views. But they also form bonds because of shared hardships from the area’s natural disasters and social problems. The need for neighborly support can also come from what it means to be human, including unexpected illnesses.
Local nonprofits exist to lend helping hands to community members in need of financial and emotional assistance. Yet the people behind these organizations rarely carry out their missions alone. They rely on the generosity of others, whether it’s through donations of money, time or other resources. Businesses can provide those resources to local nonprofits involved in causes important to community members.
For example, giving back could involve forming partnerships with nonprofits that help breast cancer patients undergoing treatment. Pink Fund, which supports cancer patients with grants to cover nonmedical expenses, offers ongoing sponsorship, partnership marketing and fundraising opportunities for businesses. They’re looking to help patients fight financial toxicity. Lending support to a cause that touches so many can give employees purpose beyond their jobs. Partnering with local nonprofits offers your team members a compelling way to get involved while building relationships.
2. Give Employees Paid Volunteer Time
Your employees want more from their jobs than a paycheck. And these desires may not only involve learning what it takes to move up the corporate ladder. Your staff could be looking for social meaning and purpose. While these workers may score points for their altruism, every job doesn’t offer the chance to work directly with the community.
Fortunately, companies can back employees’ philanthropic impulses in other ways. Sponsoring volunteer programs and offering paid volunteer time are examples. Paid volunteer time lets staff members assist organizations they want to support without having to use their personal time or take PTO. An individual employee might devote a few hours to the Boys and Girls Club, or an entire team could spend an afternoon distributing donated groceries at a local food bank.
Paid volunteer time removes some of the barriers employees face when pursuing community activities. These obstacles include missed time from work, especially for hourly staff who can’t afford to lose a day’s pay. Businesses with paid volunteer time can also boost employee engagement, productivity and retention. A 2022 survey found about a third of workers want employers to offer volunteer days so they can make meaningful contributions to their communities.
3. Offer Discounts for Community Caregivers
By nature, some professions involve personal sacrifices. Examples include first responders, teachers and the armed forces. Usually, people who choose these careers aren’t in it for the money. Instead, they feel a call to serve. But attending to the needs of their hometown or their country can take its toll.
Businesses can recognize this with discount programs for the community’s do-gooders. Say your company sells telecom services. You could offer permanent service discounts for subscribers in industries such as healthcare and education. Other ways to give back include offering free products and savings for personal celebrations, such as birthdays, or on holidays. Starbucks, for example, gives complimentary coffee to veterans, military members and their spouses on Veterans Day to recognize the contributions of these vital community members.
Another impactful way is to donate gift cards to individuals who work in the local nonprofit and public sectors. Having $50 to spend at a craft store chain would be meaningful to teachers who too often pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets. You can reach out to these community members at community events and through org sponsorships.
Making an Impact
Consumers prefer to do business with socially responsible companies. Giving back to the community promotes a positive image, increases customer and employee engagement and fulfills humanitarian needs. While they should be careful about coming off as too self-serving, business owners don’t have to keep their compassion under the radar.
Joining forces with nonprofits, giving employees paid volunteer time and offering discounts to local caregivers are ways to extend community support. These activities make your company more than a name to buy from. Lending a hand builds community connections that have a lasting impact on your neighbors and your brand.