Is community service part of your brand’s DNA? If it is, then you know what kind of a difference giving back to your community can create for those you’re helping. But there are benefits to you too, like providing the opportunity to network and create new partnerships with businesses and organizations in your area.
For those looking to cultivate connections while doing good, here are some steps to get the ball rolling.
Before anything else, you need to assess your company’s goals. Think of what causes matter to you and research organizations to work with.
At New Orleans-based tableware company Beatriz Ball, finding a cause was personal. Ball’s youngest grandson, Bo, lives with autism and was her inspiration to adopt autism awareness as the company cause in April. The company donated a portion of sales to charity that month and plans to continue its involvement.
“I would just encourage other vendors and stores to look to their community. Charity begins at home so maybe look and see if there’s something that is affecting their employees or something that’s going on within their own families, and that’s just a great way to start,” says Kelly Wenzel, National Sales Manager at Beatriz Ball.
Once you’ve identified causes to work on and businesses to partner with, start making calls. Erica Tubman, Communications Director at the family-owned Circle Furniture in Massachusetts, says reaching out to the organizations you admire goes a long way.
“Think of the things that you can offer and present those things to the companies that you respect what they’re doing and you could have some partnership and alignment with,” Tubman says. “Just start that conversation because you never know where it could take you.”
Joe Decker, Director of the University of Houston Fort Bend County Small Business Development Center, recommends joining your chamber of commerce to network with businesses of all varieties.
Events and Promotions
The networking potential at any event is endless. Take advantage of this and head to fundraisers and charity events like silent auctions, 5Ks and store-opening parties. You never know who you will meet, and at the very least, you might put your business on a new customer’s radar.
Even better than attending local charity events is hosting one in your store. You’ll establish your space as a go-to spot and create the opportunity to mingle on your own turf. At Circle Furniture, Tubman says regularly partnering with nonprofits to host in-store charity events has been great for the visibility of everyone involved.
Working with other businesses to put on sales promotions supporting a charity is also a great start. Circle Furniture partners with home furnishings company Lee Industries each July for the Lee Gives Back campaign, donating a portion of sales from selected items to charity. Take a look at the brands your store carries and see if they have any charitable causes you could join in on. If not, reach out and create a new joint campaign.
While you may be nervous to take time from your day-to-day responsibilities, Decker emphasizes the importance of stepping away.
“If anybody spends 99 percent of their time in their business day in day out, week after week, year after year, and totally concentrates on their business, they will probably burn out very quickly,” he says. “You have to devote your mind and your effort to other things that are tied in indirectly to your business so that you can have a good and fruitful career.”
The final step to creating connections through community service is being vocal about what you do. When you give back, tell your customers. Post about events and fundraisers on your social media channels and create a Community page on your website if you don’t already have one. This will help everyone know that you care about your community and are open to new possibilities.