People in dark blue shirts pick up trash in a grassy field. In the background, against a forest backdrop, participants hold open white trash bags. In the foreground, a little girl high-fives a woman holding a trash bag. Another woman, at right, watches the high-five and swallows.
Looking for a way to give back to the community? Organize volunteer opportunities like park clean-ups or food drives. — Getty Images/SDI Productions

As a small business owner, giving back to your community is a win-win situation. Not only are you supporting important local initiatives and organizations, but you’re also forging connections with your customers and showing them you care about what’s important to them.

“Consumers appreciate businesses that not only want to sell but genuinely care about the needs of the communities they’re in,” said Deiver Montes, co-founder of Avalon Sports. “There’s no better way to build rapport with your community than getting involved at a local level.”

In addition to helping your company gain more exposure and ultimately more business, donating your time, goods or financial resources to a worthy cause can also “help to improve employee morale and make improvements to the community and neighborhoods surrounding the business location,” added Helen Varvi, deputy director of Wellspring Center for Prevention.

Here are six ways to get more involved with your community and give back as a business.

Donate to local charities

Donating to a charitable cause or local nonprofit is a simple yet effective way to give your community the tools it needs to make a difference. This is a good entry point for businesses that want to give back, as it’s often as easy as clicking a button on a website or mailing a check. You might also consider donating products or offering pro bono services to community organizations for even greater brand exposure and community impact.

[Read more: What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?]

Serve on a board

Joining a board, such as a nonprofit board, business organization board or school board, is a great way to get involved with your local community and to help serve the community’s needs. These boards also offer an incredible opportunity to network with other local leaders and make important connections that can contribute to your business’s future growth.

Sponsor local events and sports teams

Nearly every community hosts local events and organized sports teams. Sponsoring these events or teams allows for an opportunity to be a part of your community culture, while also generating valuable engagement and positive public relations for your business.

Volunteer your time

One of the best ways to get involved in your community is by getting hands-on experience and volunteering. Pick a cause that is important to you and your team and aligns with your brand values, and plan a day to volunteer together. Aside from supporting the cause, you’ll be building team camaraderie and contributing to a positive company culture.

“When a business’s mission or founding purpose aligns with a similar or specific community organization, it is an awesome synergy,” said Melanie Fountaine, co-founder and COO of Joshin. “For instance, if a business works with families with special needs, supporting a local nonprofit for people with special needs is a win-win. It creates a relationship and feeling of connection.”

[Read more: 7 Wellness Benefits You Can Offer Employees]

Consumers appreciate businesses that not only want to sell but genuinely care about the needs of the communities they’re in.

Deiver Montes, co-founder of Avalon Sports

Join your local chamber of commerce

Your local chamber of commerce is a centerpiece for business in your community. Getting involved with your own allows you the opportunity to network with other small businesses in the area. It also gives you the opportunity to become among the leading experts in your industry.

Participate in online community forums

Most communities have a website or news publication where local residents and organizations can connect with each other via an online forum. Adam Eisenberg, senior editor of community engagement at hyperlocal publisher Patch, recommends this as an effective way for businesses to stay in touch with the community and its needs.

“Local businesses were hit particularly hard during the coronavirus crisis and the ripple effects are still being felt over a year later,” Eisenberg told CO—. “Neighbors and local customers want to support local businesses now more than ever. Getting involved in these conversations can help forge real, lasting connections between local customers and small businesses in the community.”

[Read more: Building Your Reputation in the Community? 3 Tips for Getting Involved]

Whatever way you choose to give back, make sure it’s authentically aligned with your brand and its values, as well as important to your local community overall.

“Be transparent and authentic in [your] interactions with local customers,” said Eisenberg. “Customers build affinities for businesses when there's more to the experience than just a transaction, so the more ways businesses can find to engage local customers and get them involved in their efforts to give back, the more likely they are to see those efforts pay off.”

“Whatever you do, you do it from your heart, whether it’s donating your time, talent or treasure,” added Pat Mathews, co-founder of Avalon Sports. “The more genuine and authentic you are, the better it [will] be received and appreciated.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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Published May 07, 2021