giving back

How to Give Back With Your Small Business

Over the summer, I had the desire to be more charitable with Signify. It’s generally a slower season, and that gave me a little more capacity to think about how I wanted to utilize my business to give back to the “do good” community at large.

You might look at a small business like mine think that philanthropy is very easy for me, given that my service offerings and products are primarily built for cause-focused organizations. And in some ways, that’s true. But I’m also a solopreneur still in the early stages of my business. So, it’s not like I can take off every week to volunteer or send out large checks on a regular basis.

If you’re a fellow startup, entrepreneur, or small business, you probably understand the dilemma.

Still, I knew there were ways to capitalize on the summer months if I was creative. I wanted to give more than the occasional volunteer hours or one-off check here and there. And I knew that the fall would be incredibly busy, so this was going to be a short-term effort.

So, I looked around at what I had to give and who I wanted to serve, and formulated a plan.

How to Give Back With Your Small Business

The Good News About Charitable Giving For Small Businesses

In my current work at Signify, as well as my many years of volunteering for and working in nonprofits, I’ve learned a lot of things. But one of the chief take-aways is that small organizations can use anything you have to give.

That is fantastic news for solopreneurs and small businesses who want to be more charitable. Only have a little to give? No problem!

Whether it’s a few volunteer hours, small donations (regular or now and again), or some other in-kind service, it will be put to good use by those with limited resources. Plus, you’ll get to participate in the causes that you care about! And, if that wasn’t enough, you’ll get to build personal relationships with the people solving problems that matter to you.


This Solopreneur’s Solution

As I mentioned, I formulated a workable plan for my summer giving. I decided that dishing out free marketing advice was the best thing I could offer. After all, standing in the gap for nonprofits and social enterprises who don’t have a marketing department was the reason I created Signify in the first place. So, my time and expertise was the most valuable commodity I had to give.

I held what I called “office hours,” which were set consultation hours during the week that any purpose-driven organization (for- or non-profit) could sign up for. There was no cost and no pitch for working with me afterward. It was just a chance to get their marketing and communications questions answered, or get feedback on their current efforts.

It was a lot of fun, and I ended up meeting some awesome people. I learned about new organizations, and was able to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones. Additionally, it was like a thousand degrees in Atlanta, and didn’t require me to leave my house, ha! ;)


How Will You Give Back With Your Business?

For my fellow entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses, I hope I’ve given you some inspiration in beginning your own philanthropic journey. I’m proof that being charitable doesn’t have to be hard. And it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time or money. But I promise, to those you end up helping, it will be extremely valuable!

If you’d like some direction on how you can be more giving with your business, I’ve written a four-step plan over at Honeybook/The Rising Tide Society. There, I’ll walk you through the stages of how to add philanthropist to your job title.

Download the free worksheet to walk you through giving back with your small business! (No opt-in required!)

 


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For my fellow entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses, I’m proof that being charitable doesn’t have to be hard. And it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time or money. But I promise, to those you end up helping, it will be extremely valuable!

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


6 Mistakes to Avoid When Partnering With a Nonprofit

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the leader of a nonprofit that I’d long admired. And while I loved hearing about their mission, their work, and their successes, it was one of their failures that stuck with me: a failed partnership.

To be completely frank, it wasn’t the nonprofit’s fault. It was the small business that tried to work with them. And it’s a story I’ve heard before from others. Sadly, it probably won’t be the last time either.

There are a lot of well-meaning people in small businesses with big hearts. And I’m deeply grateful and encouraged when I hear about for-profits partnering with nonprofits. It’s a wonderful thing, and honestly, it’s good for business.

However, if small businesses aren’t careful, they’ll do more harm than good because they’ll not only ruin the relationship, but pre-burn the bridge for others wanting to do the same in the future.

So, before you begin to think about building that partnership, let me give you the inside scoop on what a lot of nonprofits are looking for, and some pitfalls to avoid.

Before you begin to think about building a nonprofit partnership, let me give you the inside scoop on what a lot of nonprofits are looking for, and some pitfalls to avoid.

Mistake #1: Push Your Agenda Instead of Filling the Nonprofit’s Need

Let me just cut to the chase—this is often the culprit. In fact, it’s what happened in the example above.

While it is absolutely true that you should get something out of the relationship as well, you should approach the nonprofit with a genuine desire to serve. You need to try to understand their needs, and see where you can fill a gap.

Having an outside perspective is invaluable. It’s the reason I often get hired for projects as well. It’s a tremendous thing to step back and look at a situation or organization in an entirely new way for someone. So, that should not be overlooked.

However, if you reach out to a nonprofit with a list of things they “need,” but they don’t want any of them, this partnership is in trouble before it ever gets off the ground. And no amount of pushing what you have to offer on them is going to help.

You may be a videographer who sees the need for a new promo video on their website, but if they’d rather have someone film their annual gala, start there. Yes, there may be times when you can show them something they might not have otherwise seen, but a lot of broken partnerships are the result of a business telling a nonprofit what they need, the nonprofit accepting helping they don’t actually want, and no one being happy in the end.

Mistake #2: Leave the Details and Commitment Level Out of the Conversation

Everyone likes friends who constantly RSVP maybe and pop in and out of their lives at the most inconvenient moments?

That’s a big, fat no.

Spontaneity has it’s time and place for sure, and everyone loves surprises now and again, but leave them out of the nonprofit / small business partnership. Or, at least most of the time.

It can be a scary thing for a nonprofit to let someone new into their flow, especially those working on highly-sensitive issues. So, do them a favor and let them know how you plan to show up for them.

This doesn’t have to mean a huge commitment. Just be clear about what you can, and can’t do, and when you can, and can’t, do it. It’s that simple. Open lines of communication mean everything.

Your time is precious, but so is theirs. Take the time to outline exactly what this partnership will look like. That benefits you both.


Mistake #3: Don’t Follow-Through On Your Commitment

Can we just all agree that life happens? I know that, you know that, and so do the people you want to partner with.

It’s not always fun, and it’s not always easy, but sometimes circumstances change. If that happens, the best thing you can do is to communicate that to your nonprofit partner. Give an explanation, and notice (when possible), but don’t just disappear.

We have this crazy, new term we’ve all adopted over the past couple of years called “ghosting.” If you aren’t familiar with this concept, it’s pretty clear from the use of the word, but it’s when someone just vanishes from your life. Typically, this word is used in the date-osphere, but it applies here, too.

A leader at a social enterprise told me about someone who did this to them. This woman showed up out of the blue, promised them the moon, got consent from the organization, took what she wanted, and then was never seen or heard from again.

Ugh.

Can we all also agree how gross this is? Please, under any circumstances, do not do this to anyone—ever—but especially my friends at nonprofits. It’s a small world, so burning one bridge may just cause a wildfire you can’t put out. Plus, it’s just insanely rude and causes me like me to write posts like this.

Be honest and be respectful. You’ll probably get the same in return.

Mistake #4: Keep Your Nonprofit Partnership a Secret

Okay, I get that this statement may be kinda strange to include here, but I’m a marketer, so it’ll makes sense in a moment.

Hopefully, you don’t want to partner with a nonprofit solely for the publicity, but no one’s going to deny that it’s not a benefit. As I mentioned before, it’s also good for business.

However, I also get it can feel weird or braggy to talk about it. But that’s good. It means you care! So, show it off, but in a way that feels right for you. (PS: I can help you figure that out! :)

My guess is that you’re partnering with the nonprofit because you are excited about their work, so talk about that. Guess what? The nonprofit would love that, too!

I was just reading in Philanthropy News Digest that companies give the least amount to charitable causes each year, when compared to individuals and foundations. They said, “And last comes corporations — a surprise to many observers, who, given the dominant position of the private sector in the U.S. economy, no doubt assume that businesses play a far greater role in philanthropy.”

Given the potential for philanthropy, I would love to help change that fact. And one way I think we can do that is by helping those who are giving to talk about it more. People like me and the media can highlight giving and partnerships more, but it’s also up to you to talk about it. Encourage your peers (and competition) to give, and watch the goodness spread.

Yes, this should be done in a way that both parties feel good about, but the point is—it should be done. Say it loud and proud, my friend! Giving back is the new black!

Mistake #5: Move Forward, Even Though You Got Bad Vibes

I’m not an overly “woo woo” kind of person, but I do absolutely believe in intuition. And I had a client that I ultimately had to let go of because I didn’t listen to my Spidey sense during our initial meeting.

Yes, I want you to partner with a nonprofit, but does that mean you have to partner with the first one you come across? Nope. You’ve got over 1.5 million to choose from here in the US alone, so you can be a little picky, if needed.

My former client was perfect on paper. Ideal, as we marketers say. I was really excited to sit down and have coffee with him. But in a few minutes time, I should’ve known better. We weren’t communicating well, and I felt like I was just repeating myself. He also just seemed more interested in hearing himself talk more than hearing what I had to say. But I made excuse after excuse in my head as to why I felt that way, and moved forward anyway. It was for a small project and wouldn’t eat up much of my time—or so I thought.

Ever been there?

This “little” client ended up being a lot more than I bargained for. He asked for favors and discounts, had me repeat the same conversations over again, and contacted me on weekends and evenings unnecessarily. So, after about a month or so, I had to tell him I was not going to be the right fit for him. It was a hard lesson to learn, and many of you probably know what I’m talking about.

So, while partnering with a nonprofit is a wonderful thing, make sure it’s the right fit. If you get a bad vibe, it’s time to exit stage right.

Mistake #6: Start with Large Projects and Little Details

If by now, you haven’t started to see that partnering with a nonprofit is somewhat like dating them, let me clue you in here. Many of the same principles apply!

Build your partnership like you would build any relationship. Start small, and with a conversation.

This partnership should be mutually-beneficial and clearly communicated. That’s what is best for both of you, and it will help ensure success, even if it’s only a short-term project.

Nonprofits are often in desperate need of additional support, whether it’s financial or through something like volunteering. So, in that case, they may feel the need to jump in with you and take anything you offer. But that doesn’t always mean that’s what should happen.

Be sure to have a couple of conversations before starting any work to make sure you’re both on the same page. And, even then, try a small project to start. Once you leap into the trenches together, you’ll be able to see if this partnership is what both of you wants.

If not, say thanks and try again with another organization. If so, you’ll have the time of your life making positive change on behalf of a worthy cause. It could be just the thing your business—and life—was missing.


What questions do you have about partnering with nonprofits?

Nonprofits, next week I’ll talk about how you can be a better partner for small businesses, so stay tuned!



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Before you begin to think about building a nonprofit partnership, let me give you the inside scoop on what a lot of nonprofits are looking for, and some pitfalls to avoid.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Cause Marketing in Action: Foojee and Global Village Project

Many of the nonprofit leaders I speak to are eager to align with companies for short-term sponsorships or long-term partnerships. And many of the small businesses owners I talk with want to be more charitable. It seems like an easy match, right? Not always.

Nonprofits are more likely to target individual donors or grants before approaching companies. And small businesses aren’t always sure how to implement a giving strategy, so they may only take advantage of opportunities that fall into their lap.

More often than not, it looks like a middle school dance with each occupying their own side of the gym. But I’m hoping to help fix that issue, and one way I’ll do that is by bringing you stories of philanthropy in action. Having an example to follow on the cause marketing journey can not only show you what a for-profit/nonprofit partnership looks like in action, but give you a glimpse of the magic it can create—on both sides.

So, on the eve of International Day of the Girl, I’m beyond delighted to tell you about the successful partnership between Foojee, an outsourced Apple IT department, and Global Village Project, the only school in the country dedicated to educating refugee girls who’ve had their education interrupted.

Lucas Acosta, the owner of Foojee is a long-time friend, and Amy Pelissero, head of Global Village Project, is someone I’ve heard about for years and am glad to finally meet. They are a fantastic case story of what is possible for a local social impact partnership.

Amy Pelissero and a few of the students at Global Village Project

Amy Pelissero and a few of the students at Global Village Project

First, we’ll get Lucas’ point-of-view on the partnership, and then bring it home with Amy’s perspective. I loved reading their responses, and think you will too!

Why did you choose to partner with Global Village Project?

Amy and her team have created this education from scratch, and have proven it to be successful with hundreds of refugee girls. They’re doing such impactful work, and I wanted to be a part of it in some way.

Why is this cause important to you?

There are two main reasons why GVP is important to us. Education is near and dear to our hearts at Foojee. We feel that education has an opportunity to improve a life regardless of a child's parents, culture, or religion. Secondly, GVP is focused directly on a segment of our society that is often overlooked: refugee girls. Women, especially in developing countries, are often the last to be recognized and supported, and GVP is solely focused on them.

What are the benefits you provide to the nonprofit?

We provide all of GVPs IT services including Mac and iPad management, networking, and security, and we do it at no cost to them. Why not just give money? We could donate money, but GVP’s efforts are so close to Foojee’s values that we want to offer our strengths to their cause.

What has this partnership done for your internal culture?

We’re not here to just provide IT services. We can use our strengths for good. We’re doing IT work, yes, but we’re here to serve a bigger purpose. We can make a positive impact in our society by our work, and partnering with GVP gives us a tangible way to contribute to our purpose.

Has this partnership benefited you externally, for example with clients or other partners?

We’ve been able to partner with Apple’s volunteer program, which has been a great opportunity for all three organizations. We introduced GVP to our local Apple team and within a few months, Apple employees were volunteering at the school by helping teachers best utilize their iPads and Macs in the classroom.

What is your hope for the future of your partnership with Global Village Project?

My hope is that GVP can continue to assist more girls, and extend their reach into more communities. If Foojee can play just a small part of their success, then I’m happy to continue partnering with them.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Sign up to volunteer! The stories I hear every time I visit just send chills down my back. GVP is on the front lines of restoring hope and building foundations to an underserved segment of our society. Here’s a video we made a couple years ago about the school to learn more.


Lucas Acosta of Foojee

Lucas Acosta is passionate about Apple technology and people. If it’s got an Apple logo on it, his company, Foojee, makes it work in business and education. Lucas has been converting Windows users since 1993 (at the age of seven).

When he’s not building Foojee, you’ll find him reading about tech and business, crafting fine coffee, running, catching up on his favorite TV shows, or hanging out with his wife, Cristina and their daughter, Emilia.

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Here’s what Amy had to say.

Other than simply getting your IT needs managed, how has this partnership benefited GVP? What makes Foojee a good partner?

GVP was connected with Foojee in 2014—just as I was finishing my first year as Head of School—and I feel certain that our partnership has been foundational to the tremendous growth we have seen over the past four years. When we met, GVP was tightly strapped financially, and the pro bono work Foojee provided allowed us to broaden our services and our capacity across the board at a time when we could not otherwise afford to do so.

We were able to invest in new laptops, interactive whiteboards for our classrooms, online assessments and learning platforms for our students, and a STEAM and Career Exploration program because of what they were providing.

Foojee also acted as a powerful connector. They introduced us to Apple Education support services, Apple Store volunteers, and new potential friends and donors through their strong social media presence and the powerful promotional video they produced highlighting our partnership.

In addition to allowing us to expand and strengthen our services and our capacity to do the good work we do, Foojee provided us with knowledge, skills, and leadership that we desperately needed around IT and education.

Our partnership with Foojee has allowed us to build and develop a model STEAM program for refugee teenage girls with limited English and schooling and to enhance our program’s impact. GVP would not have been able to integrate and take advantage of technology in so many powerful ways without Foojee. They have provided invaluable support for our staff and students and directly and positively impacted the lives and learning of our students.

Foojee’s partnership has strengthened GVP in so many ways, including adding strength to our voice, our mission, and our vision of ensuring that refugee girls have the education they need to pursue their dreams. They believe in the work we do, stand beside us, and support us. We know that our strong collaboration allows us to join together to create a bigger impact in our community and dream a better world.

How do partnerships in general benefit both your internal and external culture at GVP?

In August we started our 10th academic year at GVP! Founded in 2009 by a handful of visionary volunteers with big dreams and a very brave first class of 30 students, GVP has become a place where we make a difference and dream a better world, one girl at a time.

Since our inception, we have served 225 refugee girls with limited English and interrupted formal schooling in our all-day academic program. Currently, 37 of our graduates have gone on to graduate from high school and 26 are enrolled in or have graduated from college.

Given that 75% of older newcomer refugee students do not complete secondary school and only 1% of refugees access tertiary education, we are proud to report that 96% of GVP alumnae who completed our program continue their education beyond our school. We depend on partners like Foojee to turn our dreams and our students’ dreams into a reality.

GVP’s founders understood the power of a strong community of support and imagined and created a place where a village of support enabled them to start and sustain a brand new school for refugee girls. GVP is the only school in the nation dedicated to educating newcomer refugee teenage girls.

We are certain that we have been able to make a difference for almost a decade now due to the strength and support we have found in our friendships and partnerships. We rely on our connections and relationships to influence our ways of thinking and doing, and are incredibly humbled by the opportunities our partners have opened to us. Together, we are transforming lives, our work, and our world.

What is your hope for the future of the partnership with Foojee?

I hope that our partnership will continue to develop and deepen with time. I see a future where we generate more recognition for the good work both organizations are doing, where we can help each other increase connections and meet new potential partners, and where the relationship is more evenly balanced.

Foojee has done so much for GVP, and we aim to give back to them in all the ways that we can. Specifically, I hope that we can continue to work thoughtfully and strategically to increase brand recognition and media coverage, to increase sales and funding, to attract new donors, volunteers, and clients, and to inspire change.

What do you wish more for-profit organizations knew about partnering with nonprofits?

Positive collaboration allows organizations to join together and make even bigger strides in bettering their community and improving the world. The end result of this kind of collaborative partnership is that both organizations are stronger.

Working with nonprofits can provide for-profit employees and leaders with a stronger sense of purpose, engagement, and create recognition for the good they are doing. Nonprofit partnership is a worthy and wise investment of resources.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We strongly believe in the power of collaboration and community—and in the power of each one in a partnership to positively influence and impact the other. We are deeply grateful to Foojee for their strong support and for the impact they are making in our school and in our students’ lives each and every day.


Amy Pelissero of Global Village Projec

Amy Pelissero is the Head of School at Global Village Project, a special purpose school for newcomer refugee teenage girls with limited English and formal schooling. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience with students from preschool through adulthood, and strong ties to the refugee community.  

Amy lives in Decatur, GA with her husband and two daughters, and loves reading, writing, travel, live music, and time with family and friends. 

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Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at a cause marketing partnership. Having an example to follow on the cause marketing journey can not only show you what a for-profit/nonprofit partnership looks like in action, but give you a glimpse of the magic it can create—on both sides.

Kristi Porter of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


5 Reasons Why Giving Back is Good For Business

Quick note: During the summer, we'll only be publishing one blog post per month as we focus on some new activities and allow you some down time without falling behind on content.

Call it Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), cause marketing, philanthropy, a social impact program, corporate citizenship, or simply giving back—doing good is good for business. From entrepreneurs to corporate giants, it's becoming more clear than ever that giving back is the new black.

But why?

Sure, it's a fine idea to say that incorporating philanthropy and giving strategies into your business is a positive decision. And for decades, many business leaders only thought that cause marketing was a nice PR strategy without a lot of substantive results. But times are a changin', my friend! In fact, I'll give you five reasons why this kind of goodwill is actually a shrewd business move.

5 Reasons Why Giving Back is Good For Business

I get it: The first rule of business is that you have to make money. No surprise there. But what If I told you that you could indeed make money and have a positive impact? Interested?

 

Attract and Retain Customers

According to a 2017 study by Cone Communications, nearly nine-in-10 (88%) Americans say they would buy products from a company leading with purpose.

^^^ I suggest you reread that fact. Go ahead; I'll wait.

Wow—that is an enormous benefit to your bottom line! You want to increase sales? This is one surefire way to do it.

Just think about your own behaviors. I realize that this subject is right up my alley, and may seem like a no-brainer for someone like me. But I have plenty of friends and family members who aren't in this space.

To demonstrate, let's look at an example. I've sold plenty of Warby Parker glasses in my day—and I've never worked for the company. However, people around me have casually mentioned that they're in search of a new pair of glasses. I then ask them if they've heard of WP, and many times, the answer is no. I tell them that WP has an awesome one-for-one model where they donate a pair of glasses to someone in need with every pair sold. And their prices are extremely competitive with many retail brands.

Now my friend has a choice to make: They can go to any retail outlet and pick a pair of glasses off the shelf, or they can purchase from Warby Parker. For many people (about 88% as we noted), it's an easy choice to grab a stylish pair of WP's that will benefit them and someone else. And that's how it works. It's that easy.

Most of us want to believe that we have purchase power. We want to believe that our decisions do make a difference. And, guess what, they do.

Now, let's take into account another aspect of that example: word-of-mouth marketing. <-- This is the one marketing tactic to rule them all. It's better than any form of advertising. It's also the hardest to manufacture. 

That same study by Cone Communications also said that 78% of those surveyed with tell others about companies with a social impact program. Think about it: we all love to share both our positive and negative purchasing decisions. And it's incredibly persuasive. Just consider those Yelp and Amazon reviews you diligently read.

Finally, by partnering with a cause-focused organization, you automatically increase your reach, and in turn, increase sales. That nonprofit or social enterprise will be thrilled to work with you, and probably more than happy to share about the relationship with their own tribe whether there is a direct cost benefit or not.

Attract and Retain Talent

If you've gone through the hiring process for your company, you know that it takes time, effort, and money. And if you've gone through that process repeatedly, you know that it often takes more money to hire and train a new person than it does to retain an employee. This is another jam that being a good corporate citizen can get you out of.

A 2016 survey of Millennials and Gen Z by Deloitte found that an "overwhelming percentage of respondents feel that business success should be measured in terms of more than financial performance (83% and 80%, respectively). They realize profits are both necessary and a priority, but they believe that corporations should set out to achieve a broad balance of objectives that include:

  • Making a positive impact on society and the environment;

  • Creating innovative ideas, products and services;

  • Job creation, career development and improving people’s lives;

  • An emphasis on inclusion and diversity in the workplace."

And, in case you were wondering, according to the US Census, there are 83.1 million Millennials, accounting for one quarter of the country's population, and 61 million Gen Zers. That's a lot of potential employees!

But the important thing to remember here is that, no matter what generation we each fall into, everyone is searching for significance and meaning. And because we spend so much of our lives working, we want those hours to count. You may be in a great position to make that happen.

 

Build and Differentiate Your Brand

We've hit on this a little bit already, but I don't want to skim over the fact that having a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) element can help your brand achieve recognition and stand out. People may either remember your name better, or it may give them some aspect of your brand to search for. You become more memorable, and you'll automatically be associated with a positive image.

Speaking of, and I hope this doesn't happen to you, but there are times when crisis may strike. Your product or service may harm someone, you may make a bad financial decision, or your leadership may fail you. In these instances, one of two things could happen: either your reputation does not recover, or it just takes a hit. In that same survey above from Cone Communications, they found that 67% of people would be more willing to forgive a purpose-driven company if that company makes a misstep versus a traditional company. 

Increase Your Network

Even though I'm an introvert, I love growing my network. I think the more people I know doing good things, the better. I talk to people all the time that probably won't ever become clients, but I'm grateful to know they exist because it may serve a different purpose down the line.

There are so many instances when we tap into our networks:

  • Someone is hiring or needs a job

  • Someone is looking for a volunteer, or wants to volunteer

  • Someone can recommend a product or service

And there are so many more examples! Heck, it's been a very long time since I worked at hospitality public relations firm, but friends still come to me looking for restaurant recommendations.

This happens all the times in our lives, and more so when you're an entrepreneur or small business. We tend to keep our heads down and plow through the day, sometimes only coming up for air when a need arises. In that instance, it's good to know the people who can help you find an immediate solution to your problem or question.

 

Demonstrate Your Personal and Business Values

According to Nonprofits Source, 72% of all giving in 2017 came from individuals ($281 billion). So, if you're reading this, it's highly likely you donated to charity. And that's probably why you're interested in this subject in first place. You want to be more generous.

Corporate giving is just another way to express your personal and business values. And whether you're selling plumbing supplies, photography sessions, homemade cupcakes (Can we be friends?), or software, people want to know there is a living, breathing person behind that logo. Humanizing your brand is your greatest marketing tactic, not that I just want you to think about it that way. 

I know as a business owner (and human) there are things that make you happy and sad. And I'd love to know what that is. Your customers and would-be customers feel the same way.

Giving back through your business is also a great way to support your local economy, which in turns, ends up giving back to you as well. American Express released a survey stating 90% of consumers said that Small Business Saturday has had a positive impact on their community. Just imagine what could happen if we lived this way throughout the year! (And many of us do!)

But supporting your local economy also means bettering the lives of those around you. And when you help people live better lives, make more money, and increase their own profit margins, they'll be in a better position to purchase from you as well. It's the circle of (business) life.

Bonus: Benefits Come Tax Time

if you're just looking at the bottom line, then we can't ignore the fact that charitable giving offers a tax break. You actually get credit from the government for doing good. Yep, Uncle Sam tips his hat to you.

But I firmly believe that even if this is the primary reason you begin giving back, it won't stay that way for long. Generosity is infectious, and once you begin working with a cause and contributing toward solving an issue, you'll learn just what the Grinch did—your heart will only continue to grow.

Before we leave this section, I also want to make a quick note. If getting a tax break isn't important to you at this stage of business, or you have the ability to work with more than one organization, I suggest taking a look at social enterprises.

It's true that some nonprofits are social enterprises, but in my opinion, not all of them are. Many social enterprises are for-profit entities that are directly tied to a cause. I already gave you the example of Warby Parker above, but there are also companies like LSTNTOMS, Sevenly, Gifts For Good, To The Market, and literally thousands of others. And as an emerging business model, there are lots more small businesses like them who could use a volunteer, partner, or sponsor like you. 

For example, my friends here in Atlanta at Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party and Dwell are both very small operations tackling very big issues. They would be delighted to hear from solopreneurs and small businesses looking to play in the social innovation space.

 

What about the little guys?

If you've read this far, you likely fall into one of two camps. The first one is that you are a believer, and just needed the right push to get you started. If this is you, go forth and do good! The second is that you agree with everything that I've said, but you're stuck at the HOW.

Sure, it's great for large companies to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies, but you're a solopreneur or small business. What can you do? Will you just have to wait until you "make it"?

The grass is always greener, right? It seems much easier if you're making millions of dollars or have hundreds of employees. However, that isn't always true. As a small business, you're more flexible and adaptable. And you're already in a great position for creativity and innovation.

The really good news is that already have enough to give, and you can get started now.

 

No money, no problem.

From volunteering as a team to giving your employees time to volunteer to donating services and products (also called in-kind giving), there are literally hundreds of opportunities for you to give back without breaking the bank. In fact, it may not require any money at all.

However, I do want to interject here and say that being able to donate large sums of money isn't a prerequisite for giving either. Every dollar is appreciated, and if you ask any nonprofit or social enterprise leader, it really does make a difference. (BTW, I asked for you!)

 

Getting Started With Giving

If you're a solopreneur or small business, my best suggestion to begin incorporating philanthropy and giving strategies is to start small. Begin with one relationship and one act.

Make a list of what you have to give, what causes and issues you support, and then find someone working in that space. I recommend that small businesses work with small nonprofits or social enterprises. You'll find a lot of common ground, and also be able to see your impact more easily.

If you don't have an existing relationship with a nonprofit you'd like to work with, attend one of their events, jump on their email list, or take one of the staffers out for coffee. You'll quickly determine if this will be a great fit for both of you.

After that, take baby steps. You (and the organization) may be super exited to get this relationship started, but take the time to date before getting married. Neither of you wants to get in over your heads and leave promises unfulfilled. That will only make it harder for each of you to take this step a second time.

Instead, test the waters, refine, and keep moving forward. You know . . . kinda like running a business.

And if you need help getting your giving strategy off the ground, let me know. I love facilitating good!

Already involved in giving back with your business? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!



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Call it  Corporate Social Responsibility  (CSR), cause marketing, philanthropy, a social impact program, corporate citizenship, or simply giving back—doing good is good for business. From one-woman and one-man shows to corporate giants, it's becoming more clear than ever that  giving back is the new black .

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.