5 ways your small business can “give back”

By Morgen Henderson

For most small business owners, the bulk of attention goes to operations, increasing revenues, and making a profit. There’s little time to dedicate to “extra-business” needs like partnering with charities and organizations. But smart entrepreneurs make time to give back. Whether it’s holding a food drive, sponsoring a neighborhood clean up, or offering your services pro bono, giving back to your community is good business.

Through charity work and volunteering, your company helps build a thriving, healthy, and supportive community. Also, there’s the personal satisfaction you get from knowing you’re making people’s lives better. On the PR side, you also help bring awareness to your business and imbue your brand with positive associations. And charitable events offer a rich source of networking opportunities for future customers. Giving back is a win-win for everyone. Here are five ways you can get started.

-Help save the planet

Whether a business or household, we all contribute to climate change. And we all can help combat the effects of global warming. Start by practicing sustainability and energy conservation at the office and on the production floor. Then donate your time and money to local sustainability groups or worldwide environmental organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund. Giving to environmental groups puts needed resources into reversing effects like greenhouse emissions, ocean acidification, overfishing, pollution, and pollution. Supporting the planet shows you support communities everywhere.

-Support education and retraining

Today, worker retraining is an industry focus. And companies are retaining employees to guard against automation. While you may not have Amazon-size money to throw around, you can still make big contributions to workers’ lives. Offer paid internships to new grads or summer jobs to teenagers. Become a mentor for a new entrepreneur and share your experience (they may come work for you). Sponsor or create a tutoring program in reading, math, or coding. Give presentations at a college business department or MBA program. By supporting education and retraining, you’re helping build a better workforce for everyone.

-Try cause marketing

Remember the “Ice Bucket Challenge”? Or what about the infectious “Dumb Ways to Die” song? Those are examples of effective cause marketing campaigns — partnerships between companies and organizations to raise awareness of social issues. It’s a mutually beneficial way to give back while promoting your brand. Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign helped promote the value of body image and self-worth. And Coca Cola’s cause marketing campaign with the World Wildlife Fund brought awareness to the need to protect the world’s freshwater supplies. Both campaigns benefited from the natural fit of the company to the cause. Dove and Coca Cola tackled issues that directly affected their businesses: conceptions of “beauty” and preservation of water. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be an international conglomerate to run a successful cause marketing campaign. There are plenty of campaigns any small business can run; you just need to be creative and choose a cause you’re passionate about!

Source your employees

Look for ways to give back that include your employees. And use them to brainstorm ideas for charities and causes. More than likely, someone will have an inside connection to an organization that will jump-start the process. Many businesses offer employee volunteer programs that include helping out at local food banks, Habitat for Humanity, holiday donation drives, animal shelters, Boys and Girls Clubs, children’s hospitals, and parks and recreation. Use sites like VolunteerMatch.org to find local opportunities. Or contact your chamber of commerce for a list of local charities. Plus, involving employees in giving back also helps increase employee morale.

Organize a run

Organize a fun run, marathon, or 5K to raise money and awareness. But make sure you’re in it for the long haul. Runs involve many moving parts (aside from the runners themselves) and take a lot of planning. But the rewards for pulling off a successful run are huge. They’re highly visible events with high participation rates and you can raise a lot of money for a good cause. There are opportunities for brand placement on t-shirts, water bottles, and running swag. And local news outlets love covering charity runs. Regardless of their purpose (e.g. charity, disease, etc.), runs always call attention to the value of exercise, doubling your impact. And a well-planned 5K is an effective way to involve your employees, either as runners or volunteers.


Morgen Henderson lives in Utah and loves to travel. She has experience in the family entertainment industry, where she’s worked since she was 16 years old. She loves her job and all that comes with it!


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