5 Tips For Getting Your Small Business Active In The Community Erin Posey More and more, small business are shaping their communities—and vice versa. As locals proudly differentiate their city from the rest, small businesses are emerging as an obvious bragging right. From one-of-a-kind cafés to locally sourced markets to homegrown startups attracting fresh talent, there is a growing devotion to supporting local companies. Ideally, that kind of local notoriety can become self-perpetuating, with the business’s reputation doubling as free advertising, drawing in new business and allowing owners to focus on keeping their customers happy and reputation thriving. There’s only one real question, then: how do you get to that level? We’ve put together a list of simple ways to get more involved outside of the office for the good of your community (and your business). Become a Sponsor. Sports teams, charity runs, music festivals– the opportunities for sponsorship are endless in most communities. Find something in your neighborhood that you believe in (and might attract your ideal buyer), and see what sponsorship options they offer. Many of these events rely on sponsorships to keep entry costs low, and if it’s in the name of charity, you also benefit from donating to a cause, getting a tax break and doing your part to keep your community thriving. Orillia Ribfest keeps its admission free by signing on several national and local sponsors. When these events go well, they’re a big win for everyone. Event sponsorships are a perfect line item for you marketing budget: you’ll earn great exposure from anyone who sees your logo on the event’s promotional material. You can also use this as a networking opportunity to chat with other business owners and event organizers, bolstering your list of professional contacts for future partnerships. Show Your Neighbors Some Love. Lots of business improvement associations create networks for local businesses to cross-promote within their community. Even if you don’t sell others’ products, you can reserve a space in your office for relevant flyers and cards from around the neighborhood, or offer coupons for relevant services. By embedding yourself within your community’s DNA, you’re becoming part of that referral conversation. By forging those local partnerships, you’re helping other businesses like yours succeed while keeping yourself top-of-mind within the community. Make Time to Volunteer. Every community is driven by volunteers, and there are countless ways to find out how to get involved. Websites like VolunteerMatch can help direct you toward a place to start, or you can find a community hub that’s relevant to your business in some way. Libraries, homeless shelters, community boards and food pantries are all great places to start looking. You can even take this one step further and close your office for a day, organizing a team volunteer day. This doubles down on your community involvement by keeping your employees engaged to the same causes you are, while building your team’s chemistry along the way. Work With Local Charities. Whenever you’re asked if you’d like to round up your change as a donation to a specific charity, how often do you say no? There are countless ways small business can work with charities in their communities. Asking for donations at a counter is one—but employees have to really believe in it, otherwise they’ll sound like bored McDonald’s cashiers asking about supersizing. An easier way is to set up a box to collect canned foods for a local shelter, or add a button somewhere on your e-commerce site offering the option to make a donation with a purchase. You can also provide meals to a local shelter or adopt a family for Christmas if you don’t have a full day to dedicate to community service. Forge Human Interactions. As you become more active in your community, you’ll discover ways to help your neighbors and fellow business owners in a more personal way. Programs like Habitat for Humanity or Learn To Be offer the opportunity to interact with the people your philanthropy is helping. You can also create a scholarship at a local university. It doesn’t need to be more than $500 or $1,000, and it gets your company name in front of a potentially huge number of students. This is an increasingly popular choice for businesses, as university tuitions skyrocket and the businesses themselves can earn a hefty tax break. There’s a strong element of human interaction here, too, as you can have a choice in the recipient, depending on how you set up the scholarship—you can go through an existing charity (which is easier, but cedes majority control to them), or work directly with the university or college. While many of these options offer fiscal benefits for your business, the philanthropic and moral payout is priceless.