Small business owners are busier than ever. They not only head a business, but they typically run daily operations that can include inventory control, staffing, finances, sales, and marketing. With many business owners putting in well over forty hours a week, finding time to give back to your community seems dismal and a last priority. I understand completely as a small business owner and single mom myself. Investing time in a community when you rarely have time to spend with your family can seem unreasonable; however, it can be amazingly rewarding in more ways than one. I highly recommend that time be made by every business owner to get involved in your community. Looking at the long-term goals for your business, you can’t afford not to.
Fortunately, getting involved doesn’t need to feel like another obligation, it should be enjoyable. Think about some non-revenue generating things you could delegate to someone else so you can find the time to volunteer for something you are passionate about.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. What are you best at? Offer to do something you are good at and you enjoy. If you are a great fundraiser or love planning events, offer up your abilities to a charity.
2. Set boundaries. Many events or committees don’t demand a lot of time, but maybe a few hours a month or one half day a year. Research the time commitment before committing to a cause and set reasonable boundaries around how much time you can spend.
3. Get your employees involved. Earth Day presents a lot of bonding opportunities with river and park clean-ups. The more the merrier, invite your team and make a fun activity of it.
4. Bring your family and friends. Volunteering your time at an event, like a walk/run, is something that every member of your family can support and be a part of. Your friends might enjoy volunteering with you too.
I don’t go out and volunteer because it will bring me more business, but because I volunteer, people I might not meet otherwise get to know me and trust me and they become friends. Of course, they are going to recommend me when they know someone who can use my services. I always help in my community with the things I am most passionate about. That passion drives me to do a great job, have fun, and make a difference. Volunteering your time must come from the heart, because you empathize with a cause, believe in the mission, or are passionate about the work. I have met many wonderful, like-minded people through my volunteer efforts over the years and, lucky for me, some of them have become my clients and I have received many referrals.
Here are several reasons that you as a business owner should get involved in the community and show you care; I hope you will identify with at least one of these.
Meet People With the Same Goals
Once you pick a charity or group that you identify with, you are likely to find people with the same passions and goals as you. This is a great start for friendships and business relationships. Take time to get to know the people you meet and patronize their businesses—they will reciprocate.
Get to Know Your Community
The community is your home, and understanding some tribulations as well as what people relate to makes you a better business owner. For example, if you own a higher end baby clothing store, you may learn that there is a program to support single working moms in need of clothes for their babies. While you may not be able to donate your inventory, you could host a donation program at your location that allows your customers to donate gently worn items and in return get a discount on a new item. It might attract new customers to your location and someday some of those moms who received the benefit of your goodwill may be able to shop in your store.
Karma. Give When You Can
You never know when you may be the one in need and be the grateful recipient. Benevolence can be in the form of time, money, or talents.
Strengthen Your Business Culture
We all need a sense of teamwork within our business; to help cultivate that, go outside your four walls. Starbucks is known for promoting volunteer work among their employees; they realize that building a strong team happens in different environments. Encouraging employees to volunteer can improve morale, according to Inc. Magazine. Ask your employees where they would like to get involved and allow them to take the initiative.
Get Your Name Out There
You and your business will reap the rewards of contributing to your community, in reputation and referrals. Years ago when I was the president of Nevada Gifted and Talented, a non-profit that focused on the education of gifted children, I sat on the board with a wonderful woman who I got to know very well through all the projects we worked on together. Through all our time together, she learned what my “real job” was. One day, she told me that her son-in-law was interested in talking to me about hiring a salesperson and growing his business. She already trusted me and knew my work ethic, so she easily sold my talents to her son-in-law. I met with him and he was my client for 3 years. Did I volunteer for Nevada Gifted and Talented in order to get more business? No, but I did a great job and got to know the people I volunteered with and that built my reputation and made it easy for people to refer me.
Build Strong Communities
Communities should support small business, and small business needs to support the community. It is a two way street. Your business won’t survive in a community that is floundering. Be a part of making sure you have a strong, vibrant community so your business can thrive. Keep your efforts local, and make a difference where you can.
It’s very rewarding to make a difference, and it’s even more rewarding when your business wins too. There are so many opportunities that are available, from sitting on a committee to helping collect canned foods. I encourage you to get involved. Find your passion and then find your outlet. Your business and personal brand will thank you later.
Please check out her latest volunteer project, https://www.nvdm.org/.