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Thought Leadership

Small Business, Big Impact: How to Give on a Limited Budget

In today’s often volatile climate, philanthropy remains a top priority for small business owners. Natural disasters ranging from Hurricane Harvey to the Northern California wildfires have made charity a topic that is all too real for business owners looking for ways to show their support. Moreover, the majority of today’s customers care deeply about social causes, encouraging many business owners to seek ways of incorporating giving into their business models.

So how can your small business make a big impact with a limited budget? Here are a few ways to get started.

Identify and focus on what is personally meaningful

Giving for the sake of giving is of limited value. When you contribute to a cause you truly care about, giving becomes more meaningful, more impactful, not to mention easier for the business.

Identify which philanthropic causes matter to you and your business. Make a short list of your priorities and rank them, then match a charity or effort to each one. You might be surprised how effortless it feels to execute on your plan when it’s related to something you’re passionate about.

The idea for Homefree , a cookie business catering to customers with special dietary needs (nut-free, vegan, and gluten-free) grew from a place of personal meaning for founder Jill Robbins. As a clinical psychologist and a mother to a child with food allergies, Robbins knew the importance of inclusion and its positive impact on those with special dietary needs. Homefree’s commitment to inclusion is evident in all of their contributions, from food donations for disaster relief efforts, to allergy support group talks and more. Says Robbins, “Focus on what is personally meaningful, and the passion, energy, and commitment will easily follow.”

Don’t reinvent the wheel

One of the simplest ways for a small business to give back is to partner with local non-profits that are already doing good work, and support the causes you care about.

Partnerships can take many forms and are often quite flexible. It could include being a sponsor for a fundraiser, working as a volunteer at an event, or donating a portion of sales to the non-profit.

ReVision Energy is a renewable energy contracting company whose socially-focused roots run deep. Even when ReVision was small and their ability to give was less, the company would partner with Habitat for Humanity and other non-profit organizations to provide aid in lieu of cash donations. Says digital marketing manager Fred Greenhalgh, “If you can support someone else’s mission, you will likely make more of an impact than trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Offer in-kind donations instead of cash

An excellent giving option for cash-limited small businesses are in-kind donations, providing goods or some service as a contribution instead of money. The form of these donations depends on your business. In-kind donations might be muffins that your bakery makes, a price break on copies from your print shop, or free space in your office that a charity can use for meetings – or even simply volunteering your time.

Leah’s Pantry provides cooking and nutrition workshops to underserved populations throughout California. Founder Adrienne Markworth says in-kind donations are central to the business, which offers training to local agencies on how to encourage good nutrition among low-income families and providing workshops on the topic for the community. Says Markworth, “We know that everyone deserves nourishment, but the barriers are complex and varied. We believe our focus of presenting individual and community-led solutions [as opposed to cash] is the most impactful and sustainable for the health of our communities.”  

Start making an impact now

In today’s socially-conscious climate, giving back shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be baked into your small business’s DNA. Fortunately, you don’t need a mountain of cash to make a big impact in your local community. Focusing your cause, finding the right partners, and offering in-kind donations are just a few ways you can get involved.

Start by thinking about the “why” of your business – why you do what you do – as well as what is important to you and your customers. The areas where you can make a big impact in your community will quickly become evident.

Originally posted to Inc. on November 30, 2017.

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