“How can I support my community and important causes? My business is small, and I can’t afford to constantly donate.”

Giving Back to the CommunityThose of us in the handcrafted soap and cosmetics space and other small businesses struggle with this all the time. We believe that businesses of all types and sizes should contribute to the community good.

But, we don’t have the size or resources to simply donate and make an impact. And, keeping our business viable is a constant struggle; we can’t afford to just do good for the world and ignore the survival of our businesses.

The key is to be strategic. What you support and how you support it should have impact and meaning, for society, and for you and your business. Giving back should be far more than simply taking some of your hard-earned money and giving it to a good cause. That might make a small difference and you might feel satisfaction, but you are limited in your impact. There are better and smarter ways to have social and business impact.

Far better to invest time and find those opportunities where you can align social value and interests with your own business value and interests. Social impact and business value; at the same time. That allows you to do more and do it more often.

Start by listing the social causes and issues that are important to you and note any you are supporting now through your business. Then list your key business issues and needs. Look for overlap and synergies. I won’t go into a lot of detail on this process here. If you are interested check out the resources available through the CSR Training Institute [here] or contact me directly.

Here are some simple thoughts and strategies. Many of you will have already done some of them.

Involve your Customers: What causes and issues are important to your customers? Is there overlap with your interests? Can you use them to motivate customers? One that I’ve seen work well is:

Change for Change:

Invite your customers to contribute their change to a cause (food bank, homeless shelter, environment, etc.) and offer to match it (for online and credit card transactions make it easy for them to add a specific amount or percentage). Contact the organization(s) getting the support to let them know about it. Ask them to help let their network know so you can collect more for them (and more sales for you!). Ask them about publicizing it through local media – it can be a great community interest story. The end result is that more sales for you equals more social impact. Win, win. Not taking your hard-earned money and simply giving it away.

Communicate, Partner and Engage:

Let your customers and stakeholders know of your interests in social causes and justice. Find out what they are interested in. See where/how there might be some mutually beneficial overlaps and explore how you might do more by collaborating with them.

Classes and Programs:

I’ve seen hand-crafters do training and awareness programs at local foodbanks and shelters and then donate what they produce to the program. Of course, this likely isn’t your target market, but you may be surprised at who you connect with from doing this, and the impact you have on the lives of the people who participate. If you do this, couple it with communication and even publicity. Maybe a local radio or even TV station will cover it, or it may be interesting for community papers and newsletters. Ask the people running the facility about how to use your event to help them publicize their mission and activities (and yours gets publicized at the same time). Take pictures, video, get quotes from the host organization and participants. Post them on your social media. Let your customers know how you are supporting your community (their community).

Communicate Strategically:

Communication and letting others know how you are supporting society and important causes can help promote your business and brand. But, only if you do it strategically. Don’t present yourself as saving the world, or overly generous or kind. Be humble, share credit, tell stories, talk about impact. Use testimonials.

If you want more on this, I have spent years advising, training and supporting companies, governments and organizations on these issues; how to create value where business meets society. If you are interested there are video libraries, blog articles and other information on these topics available at the CSR Training Institute’s site [here].

Baraka’s customers do so much to make our world better. Keep it up, but make sure it also helps your business – when your business is strong you can do more and create more impact.

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