Written by Monty Henderson
How often is your business pursued by various youth sporting groups, volunteer groups, not-for-profit’s, community organizations, and the like to donate time, energy, and money to aid their specific causes? As entrepreneurs, we know that time, energy, and money are scarce resources and therefore are highly valued. I am often asked by clients “How can I give back without giving away crucial resources for my business?” Others simply state that they tell everyone “no.”
When reviewing draft business plans, it is typical to observe that there is not a budgeted line amount or a written text concerning contributions to community causes and while that certainly may not ruin a solid plan, it may be revealing that the business is not prepared to be a part of the community in which it resides. This writer is of the belief that being engaged in one’s community is a good business practice. Does that mean that every request received should be honored? Certainly not. Rather, it is suggested that the entrepreneur pre-determine what is to be given, how it will be provided, and when it is best to give.
Which organizations can you serve best with your resources? Think not only of your personal time, but also your staff’s ability to help. Doesn’t it make sense that if your employee completes a task for the beneficiary organization that they will profit just as much as if you performed the task yourself? Wouldn’t this also engage and enable your employees to commit some time towards the charity and take pride that they are also “helping” as both an individual and as a team member representing your company?
What about the business marketing budget? There is no shortage of group cards and promotion opportunities for school related groups. What better target market for the local pizza shop can be than a discount card sold to parents of school age children listing the business with an offer of free breadsticks with each pizza order? Make good choices about who will receive the benefit of your offer and how it will assist the group in need and why it will bring customers into the store. These are business marketing decisions – not strictly donations.
It’s not always about money. How about offering a meeting room, an unused computer, some printing services, a special tool, or a company kitchen to help a cause?
Serving as a board member for community groups may be very rewarding. It can raise your profile personally, shed positive light on your business, and introduce you to possible new business contacts through networking. Before deciding to be on a board, read the bylaws of the organization. A good rule of thumb is to serve “wholly committed” to the organization or don’t serve at all. There is nothing wrong with setting a term as per how long you will serve in advance.
There are personal, professional, and business related benefits to being a community provider. An entrepreneur should select causes that they believe in and can make an impact on the group aided. Which is better – to give $50 to 10 groups that ask for help or to give $500 to one that you really want to aid? Why not pick a group to help that is a nice fit for your targeted customers? It doesn’t have to be the same group each year. Ask organizations that solicit to you to provide information about what they will do with the money. Be a knowledgeable provider. Decide how you want to help your community, make a few rules, be consistent in your policy, and execute it. You will be giving back to your community and your community will respect you for it.
The way you treat organizations will reflect on how you do business in the community. Only make commitments that you can keep. Be punctual. Don’t let people down. Deliver as promised. Isn’t that good business?
Monty Henderson is in his fourth year as a Hoosier Heartland Indiana SBDC business advisor, and in his thirtieth year as an independent businessman. Working from the Kokomo office, Monty has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs with their businesses. ISBDC business advisors have tools and resources specifically supplied to them to help their clients develop quality business plans. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @montysmemos.