In our Northern Michigan culture, talking with business owners about community responsibility and its benefits is like preaching to the choir. So many of you have been generously giving back in numerous ways for the entire time you’ve been in business. If you’d like to expand what you’re doing or initiate a first-time effort, here are some thoughts.
To start, find alignments between your business mission and your community’s mission. Select a direction that will have a positive impact on both. Who are the stakeholders and what do you want to do that provides benefit to their cause — the environment, the arts, other small businesses? Start with one cause and expand when you’ve mastered it. As we always say to our SCORE clients — start small and grow as you succeed.
Second, develop your plans with your employee team. Their engagement is essential, and you want them to feel passionate about whatever your company pursues. Their network will generate ideas on community and customer needs and interests and will combine with their own to benefit both your business and your chosen cause. Their ongoing feedback is essential.
Third, share your plans and progress with your customers, clients, suppliers, and network. You want to engage them through communication to raise awareness and participation. You will collect helpful feedback and learn of further opportunities to expand your involvement.
Here are some strategies for giving back— and it’s not about the money!
- Volunteering with your team is a form of teambuilding that strengthens company culture and increases productivity.
- Nonprofits can always use help — sometimes more than money; find meaningful opportunities to donate your team’s skillsets.
- Support local small businesses by buying their products, leaving positive reviews on their social media, and looping them into your network.
- Partner with nonprofits whose cause aligns with yours and is relevant to your industry and the community.
- Involve your customers by allowing them to participate financially with small donations or otherwise promote the cause.
You can’t go wrong with a social responsibility effort — formal or informal. Eighty-five percent of consumers have a more positive image of a company that supports the betterment of society. Fifty-five percent of consumers say they are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible brands and companies. Workforce availability is a constant issue for us in Northern Michigan, so get this! Half of Millennials would take a pay cut for a job that supports societal interests; 79% of them say they consider social responsibility when deciding where to work; 83% say they would be more loyal to a company with a social responsibility program in place.
Whether you use this to check alignment of your mission, grow your community engagement, or start a program, bottom line is you can’t afford not to demonstrate good social responsibility.
As always, Tip of the Mitt SCORE is here to facilitate your business planning and execution ‘for the life of your business.’ Contact us to talk about this or any other aspect of your business or nonprofit.
(Additional resources for this column from Bridget Weston, CEO, SCORE Association; and Zoe Devitto, marketing strategist, SaaS Brands)