As a small business owner, investing in the community, where you do business, is a savvy move on your part. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do. These are your customers and an opportunity for you to show support, build friendly relationships and gain the trust of the people you’re doing business with. Certainly, as a successful business, your customers and clients see you as an important figure in the community.
However, to be an effective business leader, you need to know the social landscape, vibe and needs of your customers. This way you can invest wisely and become a part of the community that gives back.
First, giving back doesn’t always mean writing a check. I often talk about the importance of building relationships and investing in the community is no different. For example, you could connect one of your customers, who owns a plant nursery, with the township building a new community garden. That friend might be willing to donate various plants for this venture and it’s your direct involvement that connected the donor to the cause.
Second, I would recommend finding out which organizations your customers are interested in supporting. This could be a simple on-line questionnaire asking your customers “what’s the last charitable organization you donated money, food or clothing to?” Or you could ask, “When is your birthday?” In turn, use this information to make a donation to your customers’ favorite charity in honor of his/her birthday or to the causes they find most important to be involved with. Tweak the idea as you see fit.
Investing in the community is about building relationships that benefit its citizens. Sometimes it is writing a check and is a line item on your marketing budget. This strategy is known as public relations and is a part of any good business model.
Don’t be shy about your support of community causes. This strategy bears residuals, particularly in the Digital Age, when you connect with your customers online and can talk about the various causes you support.
While it’s a known fact that people do business with people they like, investing in the community, requires you connecting with your customers and the things they care about beyond a tax-deduction. It’s about broadening the scope of your business and raising awareness about the needs of the community you serve.
Finally, as a local business you might want to explore investing in a Community Supported Enterprise (CSE). CSE are businesses that derive funds from investment groups that loan money to support affordable housing, local businesses, community centers, and other enterprises that solve community needs. This is more philanthropic and localized in its approach but can serve as a real boost to your PR strategy.