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How to support your community as a business owner

Create a strategic community investment plan with these tips.

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When you invest in your community, you can improve the lives of others and contribute to economic sustainability. And, as a business owner, your philanthropic efforts can increase your business's visibility, create cause marketing opportunities, and foster a deeper sense of purpose for you and your team – a true win-win. If you’re ready to create your community investment plan, here are some tips to get started.

Understand what your community needs.
Strong community give-back efforts are tied to the direct needs of the local community. Start by using your existing knowledge and network to gain a better understanding of your community's needs. Survey your team and customer base to generate a list of organizations and causes to support. As you familiarize yourself with the unique needs of your community – whether they involve education, housing, food insecurity, or other concerns – take the time to get to know the local organizations committed to addressing them. Afterward, create a shortlist of causes and organizations you may want to support or partner with. With this foundational research complete, you'll be prepared to assess your resources effectively.

Determine your resources.
As a business owner, you can customize your community investments according to your preferences and resources. According to SCORE, 75% of small business owners donate an average of 6% of their profits to charitable causes. Beyond financial considerations, there are numerous approaches to structuring your give-back plan. Assess your resources – time, finances, and connections – alongside your passions to craft your plan. What causes on your shortlist do you feel the most passionate about? Does one cause or organization align the best with your business's values? After addressing these questions and assessing your resources, you can outline non-monetary ways your business can support your community, alongside establishing an annual charitable giving budget based on projected revenue.

Don’t be afraid to get creative in using your resources. Here are some suggestions for incorporating monetary and non-monetary elements into your plan:
  • Implement quarterly team volunteer days to enhance team engagement and foster a sense of purpose.
  • Establish an employee match program to amplify individual contributions and foster a culture of giving while reaching more organizations.
  • Explore sponsorship opportunities for an annual charity event to demonstrate corporate social responsibility.
  • Identify and commit to supporting specific areas of need, such as childhood hunger or education, to make a tangible impact.
  • Integrate a give-back program into new-patient initiatives, aligning business growth with community support. 
If your resources are limited, consider opting into an established program – maybe one specific to your industry. For example, if you’re a dentist, you could host a Give Kids A Smile event.

Measure and evaluate. 
As with any investment, you’ll want to find ways to measure its success. As you create your plan, align it with measurable goals and establish a consistent cadence for evaluation. From fostering a strong culture and building brand awareness, there are several ways to track its success. These include employee surveys, monitoring behaviors in the work environment for culture and customer sentiment, as well as tracking brand search volume, earned media, and referral traffic. You can also quantify the impact of your efforts on the community by tracking the number of beneficiaries served, setting a target for volunteer hours for your team, or establishing partnerships with a specific number of organizations.

Foster relationships.
While it may go without saying, another invaluable aspect of strong give-back programs is the power of relationships. Take the time to get to know the leaders and teams of the organizations you partner with. As you establish trust and build rapport, they may share creative ways to partner with your business, help you measure success, and foster connections between your business and the community. As the needs of your community change over time, your partners can help you keep a pulse on what your community needs and how you and your business may be able to help. 

Get started!
There is no one-size-fits-all give-back strategy. At its core, your give-back program should address a need within your community, be achievable with your existing resources, and resonate with your business's values. By being a business that gives back, with the right strategy, you can strengthen your community and drive positive change, all while enhancing your business’s reputation.

Looking for more content related to community giving? Check out this episode of The Path to Owning It.

This content is for informational purposes and does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, tax, or investment advice, or other professional services by neither Provide, its affiliates, nor Fifth Third Bank, and it is being provided without any warranty whatsoever. Please consult with appropriate professionals related to your individual circumstances.

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