Being able to give back to the community is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of being a small business owner. I am frequently asked to perform pro bono work for many of the charitable events in our community, as are many business owners, and it is difficult to say no to any community cause.
Community involvement is very important commitment for those in the business community, but it is difficult to select one cause over another without a plan in place that articulates your requirements for support and what the process is for involvement. This could be conveyed on your website or an internal document, and simply state clearly what your company offers, who they offer it to and what the procedure is for consideration of a new project.
One example of a company that covers all the bases is McDonald’s. McDonald’s has a local program called the “Orange Bowl,” through which they provide gallons of Hi-C and cups to local nonprofits, including brownie troops, school bake sales and scout meetings, free of charge. It must be reserved in advance, but some McDonald’s locations have a dozen or more Orange Bowls to loan out for such events. McDonald’s also sponsors programs affiliated with The Ronald McDonald House Charities in communities with a local chapter (including right here in Lansing).
Other locally-based businesses often pick one primary charity, such as Habitat for Humanity or the Red Cross, and contribute to and participate in multiple events with them. Fundraisers, especially ones which just require a donation of your time such as car washes on your lot, can send a strong community-centric message, and are inexpensive to execute.
My advice is to plan in advance. It is beneficial to have a policy established that informs charities of what you can do to support their efforts specifically. By donating your time and skills, rather than just money, you can contribute to local events that support the community, while enhancing your business reputation in the process.