As a business, getting involved with your local community is a chance to make new connections, drum up business, and create a lasting positive impact.
Bringing about change doesn't have to be difficult or expensive, it only takes a good idea and a little creativity. While you're at it, you could even work in ways to directly involve your business' products or services.
Give back to your community while moving your business forward. The following list contains 30 ideas any small business can use to boost involvement with their local community.
Donate School Supplies
Sponsor school supplies for students that have demonstrated need, for a particular class, grade, or even a whole school. Involvement with the local education community is an excellent way to positively impact future generations of potential customers, as well as their parents.
Brand or personalize the school supplies and distribute among the students. The type of supplies you give away can vary, too. Students need everything from flash drives to pens and planners. Focus your efforts on the local community college for a more immediate impact.
Sponsor an Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Social
Whether it's put on by a local church or other community organization, a social is a great way to make friends with your community. Many also contribute to a local, worthy cause. Provide food, a meeting spot, or donate to a raffle with your business's products or services.
Promote at Your Local Library
The library is an educational hub in your community. As more and more libraries offer a selection of houseware, garden seeds, and board games to check-out alongside the books, you have even more opportunities to show off your products. Mark donations with, "donated by" stamps to increase brand awareness.
Set Up Your Own Library
Don't have access to a local library or want a more personal solution? Create a “community” library box where employees (or anyone really) can pick up and drop off a book. These are gaining in popularity across the country. So don't forget to stamp your books to remind people where they came from. Bookmarks are a nice bonus, too.
Incentivize Your Employees to Volunteer
Encourage your staff to volunteer. Offer to pay for an hour or two of volunteer time each week, or once a month. This idea will help foster community spirit, as well as team spirit within your business. Allowing your employees to choose where they volunteer is important, too.
Mentor Other Businesses
If your company has achieved success, it may be time to mentor another just starting up. New businesses can bring a host of opportunities for partnerships, and joint marketing or outreach ventures later on. When you teach other business about how you achieved success, you may come across few revelations of your own.
Work With Local School Programs
Though we've already mentioned sponsoring school supplies, consider sponsoring a specific program. Art programs, in particular, are in jeopardy in many public schools. Those that do stick around may be subject to severe funding cuts and lack enough supplies to go around. Donating much-needed supplies, including simple things like drawing pads and pencils can do a lot of good.
Create a Partnership with Another Small Business
Do you cater and know a wedding planner? That's a match. Happen to be a deli next to a bakery? The perfect partnership.
Not every potential business deal may seem as obvious. However, it's never a bad idea to look around and see who's interested in teaming up. If you can't think of a way to make it work, ask. It could even be as simple as creating a community coupon booklet or discount card.
Donate What You Don't Need
Donating slightly used equipment, or the proceeds from a sale, can improve the lives of many in your community. If you need to upgrade office equipment, for instance, consider donating your older computers to the local library, school, or assisted living facility. If none of these seem like a good fit, see if the local school has a list of families in need. In today's high-tech world having access to a PC at home can change a child's future.
Promote Healthy Habits like Hydration
On hot summer days, not everyone remembers to pack their water bottle. Setting up a tent and handing them out to passersby can earn you a substantial amount of goodwill karma. Better, those bottles, if they're quality, will end up being carried around for the rest of the season. That way you get to see your branded merchandise doing good for your community right away.
Challenge Your Community for a Cause
A community challenge can boost local community involvement by giving people something to look forward to. If your immediate area lacks any festivals or special events, this could be a way to drum up more interest. A challenge can be anything from a walk-a-thon to a full-fledged marathon.
Set Up a “Pay What You Want” Event for Charity
An event like this could be anything from a talent show, to a potluck or bake sale. Adopting a "pay what you want" model won't exclude any member of the community. This is a way to get involved without losing money as you may still cover costs. All profits, however, should go to a local cause. That can be anything from the medical bills of a resident or funding for the local school.
Create a Contest for Your Next Product
Need ideas for a new product? Does your logo need a redesign? Want to find a local star for your next commercial? This is a great opportunity to create a contest to find local talent hidden within your community. Sure, it may not involve everyone, but it does show that you and your company are committed to improving the lives of residents.
Create a Contest to Boost Spirits
Not every contest needs to have a serious purpose. A themed event based on what your company stands is a chance for staff and community members to unwind. Host a local cooking contest, a sheep shearing contest, sidewalk art challenge, eating competition, or a frisbee golf tournament (with branded frisbees).
Acknowledge the Achievements of Others In Your Community
Sometimes, the more understated things are the best. If someone in your community has done something notable, send them a note. In the same vein, if a local individual or family has experienced a misfortune, send them a care package. This may not reach as many people as an event, but it will mean more to those that receive what you send.
Create Essentials Boxes to Give Out for the Holidays
Create boxes of essentials to hand out to families that have fallen on hard times in your community. Distribute during the holidays to drastically boost their spirits. If you aren't sure how to find families in need assistance, try contacting a local school, food pantry or shelter.
Connect With Nature – Set Up a Garden or Gleaning Event
Establishing a community garden gives your employees a place to volunteer and unwind. However, it also provides food for local families, a "blessings box" or food pantry. Set up a day of "gleaning," and get a group to farm fields after harvest has taken place.
Gather any food left behind. Machines aren't capable of picking every bit of food, and many field workers must leave misshapen produce behind. This reduces food waste and provides fresh produce for people that may otherwise not have nearly enough.
Sponsor an Adoption Fair for Your Local Animal Shelter
Animal shelters sometimes get overcrowded. Donate money for an additional kennel, or sponsor an adoption fair. Encourage your employees to adopt, subsidize fees, or pay for necessary shots or initial supplies.
Create a Free, Educational Workshop
Provide your community with an educational event - it will give them something to thank you for in the long run. As a bonus, offer a "souvenir" to allow them to practice their new skills. Sewing classes, cooking classes, farm tours, even lectures on relevant topics in your industry will entertain.
Set Up a Neighborhood Watch Program
This may seem like a concrete suggestion, or one not suited to your business. As a small business owner, you have a unique leadership role within your community. If a neighborhood watch program is needed, consider stepping up. If you can't participate yourself, consider donating supplies to keep those that do volunteer safe.
Use Your Business to Showcase Your Community
Whether it's on your website or your company's Facebook page, share the spotlight with a talented few in your community to earn the goodwill of the people. It's a great way to start a partnership, too.
Create a Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts don't have to be reserved for Easter. Whether it's with laminated maps and clues, or a modern geocaching event, a scavenger hunt with prizes hidden throughout your community or a local park can get people outside and explore. Local community involvement is just as much about helping people expand their horizons as it is about improving your business.
Sponsor Great Art
Consider commissioning a community mural or new street signs. Ask your employees to submit a design for a new art installation in a local park, community center, or library. Art may be something frequently passed over for a charity event, but inspiring your local community is an important responsibility of small businesses as well.
Help Fund a Building Project
If you would rather fund a cause with a little more substance, consider paying for something to be built. You don't have to pay for everything (and this is an excellent way to bring in other small businesses). A new wing for the local elementary school may be too much of an undertaking. However, your community may be looking into building or remodeling a community theater. Pledge to pay for as little as a section of seating, or the concessions counter.
Work With Your Employees
Find what your employees are passionate about and help them realize their dreams outside of the workplace. Ask what changes they would like to see in their community and become involved in these projects. This way you’ll invite them to see your business as something more than just a place to clock in, or make it through the day.
Invite Local Businesses to Use Your Products and Services
If you want to strike up a partnership but your potential partner hesitates, consider giving them an incentive. Create a “limited time” offer that combines what you both do best to boost your business, and test out what a future deal might bring the both of you.
Sponsor a Local Sports Team
A classic idea; sponsoring a local sports team is a way to show the members of your community that you care about their interests. When sponsoring a team, you can provide everything from snacks to new equipment, repairs, or uniforms.
Sponsor the Local Youth Orchestra or Theater
Not every community centers around sports. Other organizations are frequently overlooked. Your orchestra and theater are often offered outside of schools and include children from a variety of communities. Sponsoring these programs can come in many forms, too. Host an event to raise funds for them, and help their dreams come true.
Create an Internship Program
Working with a local community college or other educational organization is an exceptional way to show what running a small business is really like. It's a fabulous way to offer an opportunity to those that feel like they need more experience before joining the workforce.
Create a Social, Community Space or Forum
Like the community garden mentioned before, if your business has a space that isn't used, consider opening it up. Set up an idea studio, a “makerspace," or an open classroom or resource center. Don't have a space available but want to create a forum where you can connect with your local community? Consider sponsoring a monthly "open coffee club” meetup for local professionals and small business owners.
With a little creativity and time, your business can make a meaningful, lasting contribution to your community. You can make a difference in the lives of others and even improve the overall property values! Clearly, this is a project well worth the effort.