Human Resources, Nonprofits, and Small Business & Startups

The ROI of small business philanthropy

July 31, 2014
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The concept of corporate philanthropy is nothing new. Companies from around the world have long been partnering with charitable organizations to engage employees in corporate giving campaigns.

In fact, it's estimated that American businesses donated $16.76 billion to charities in 2013, as reported by Giving USA.

However, the idea that corporate philanthropy requires writing a giant check is no longer valid. Philanthropy is not just for Fortune 500 companies — it's a great idea for small businesses as well.

Businesses now engage in philanthropy in a variety of non-traditional ways, from company volunteer days to providing non-cash donations or offering pro-bono services.

Many small business owners may shy away from charitable giving, because they feel they don't have the time, resources or staff to participate in a large giving campaign.

However, as more small businesses are engaging with charities in new ways, they're finding that connecting their company with a cause is not only beneficial to the charity, but also the workplace.

There are multiple ways that your small business can engage in philanthropy, and there are just as many reasons why you should consider doing so:

1. Your employees care

Many employees report that they feel more connected to their company after participating in work-sponsored philanthropy. This can be achieved through company wide or department-wide volunteer days, charitable fundraisers or committing to support a cause or initiative. Consider asking your employees what causes they're passionate about and what sort of philanthropy they'd be interested in participating in. Involving your employees in the decision to give is a great way to build a sense of community and ensure that they'll engage with the cause.

2. Your customers care

In a recent study, 90 percent of consumers said that they want companies to tell them the ways they're supporting causes. This translates to more than 278 million people who want to know what a company is doing to benefit a cause. Engaging your small business in a cause can help you connect with a growing number of consumers who care about where their money is going and what it's supporting.

3. Engage the next generation of potential employees

As millennials (defined here as those born after 1979) enter the workforce, small businesses are learning how to recruit and engage the next generation of their staff. Fifty-five percent of millennials said that a company’s involvement in various causes affected whether they took a job or not, according to a 2014 study sponsored by The Case Foundation, Additionally, 77 percent of millennials said that they prefer to volunteer in groups rather than individually. Millennials desire to work somewhere that they feel is making a difference and engaging your business in philanthropy is an excellent way to fulfill this.

4. Show leadership in your community

Small businesses play a key role in their community by providing jobs and supporting the local economy. Volunteering or supporting local charities gives small businesses the chance to give back to the same area where many of their employees and customers live. Local philanthropy is a great way to connect with a cause that many people within your organization are passionate about and can relate to.

5. Align your giving with your industry

Consider looking for ways to make an impact within your own industry. Regardless of what type of small business you have, chances are there is a way you could connect your work with a cause. For example, if you own a restaurant, perhaps you could partner with local urban gardens or hunger-related initiatives. If your charitable giving reflects what you do as a small business, you can engage employees and reinforce your brand’s messaging.

Modern philanthropy comes in many forms and offers small businesses many opportunities to get creative and give back.

Does your small business engage in any philanthropy? What experiences have you had, and what advice do you have for others?

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