3 ways businesses can give back to the people and communities around them

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There is more to building a positive reputation on the street than a catchy commercial, a hip brand name or a good selling product. Corporate social responsibility has become a way for companies to stand out and care about things other than driving sales. For some businesses, giving back to the community goes beyond a few Saturday afternoon fundraisers. Still, efforts must be authentic and thoughtful to be worthwhile.

“Making a difference” has become the preferred term for charitable endeavors, but as an entrepreneur you don’t have to come up with an earth-shattering way to give back to those around you. At the same time, you want to do something besides making annual donations to United Way. Here are three additional ways to help the communities you call home.

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1. Support local nonprofits

What a community is, goes beyond a shared dot on the map. People come together because of common values, experiences and worldviews. But they also bond over the shared hardships of the area’s natural disasters and social problems. The need for neighborly help can also stem from what it means to be human, including unexpected illnesses.

Local nonprofits exist to lend a helping hand to community members in need of financial and emotional assistance. Yet the people behind these organizations rarely carry out their missions alone. They rely on the generosity of others, whether through donations of money, time, or other resources. Businesses can provide these resources to local non-profit organizations involved in issues important to community members.

For example, giving back can mean creating partnerships with nonprofit organizations that help breast cancer patients undergoing treatment. Pink Fund, which supports cancer patients with grants to cover non-medical costs, offers ongoing sponsorship, collaborative marketing, and fundraising opportunities for businesses. They want to help patients fight financial toxicity. Supporting a cause that touches so many people can give employees purpose beyond their jobs. Partnering with local nonprofits offers your team members an engaging way to get involved in relationship building.

2. Give employees paid volunteer time

Your employees want more from their job than a paycheck. And these desires can’t just relate to learning what it takes to climb the corporate ladder. Your staff may be looking for social meaning and purpose. While these employees can score points for their altruism, not every job offers the opportunity to work directly with the community.

Fortunately, companies can support employee philanthropic impulses in other ways. Sponsoring volunteer programs and offering paid volunteer time are examples. Paid volunteer time allows employees to help organizations they want to support without having to use their personal time or take a PTO. An individual employee can spend a few hours at the Boys and Girls Club, or an entire team can spend an afternoon distributing donated groceries at a local food bank.

Paid volunteer time removes some of the barriers employees face in pursuing community activities. These obstacles include missed time from work, especially for hourly workers who can’t afford to lose a day’s pay. Companies with paid volunteer time can also boost employee engagement, productivity, and retention. A 2022 study found about a third of the workers want employers to offer volunteer days so they can make a meaningful contribution to their community.

3. Offer discounts for home care providers

By their very nature, some professions involve personal sacrifices. Examples are aid workers, teachers and the armed forces. Usually people who choose these careers don’t do it for the money. Instead, they feel a calling to serve. But caring for the needs of their hometown or their country can take its toll.

Businesses can recognize this with discount programs for community benefactors. Suppose your company sells telecom services. You can offer permanent service discounts to subscribers in industries such as healthcare and education. Other ways to give back include offering free products and savings for personal celebrations, such as birthdays or holidays. Starbucks, for example gives free coffee to veterans, military members and their spouses on Veterans Day to recognize the contributions of these vital community members.

Another impactful way is to donate gift cards to individuals who work in the local non-profit and public sector. Having $50 to spend at a craft store chain would make sense for teachers who too often pay for classroom supplies out of pocket. You can connect with these community members at community events and through organizational sponsorships.

Make an impact

Consumers prefer to do business with socially responsible companies. Giving back to the community promotes a positive image, increases customer and employee engagement, and meets humanitarian needs. While they should be careful not to appear too selfish, business owners don’t need to keep their compassion under the radar.

Joining forces with non-profits, giving employees paid volunteer work, and offering discounts to local health care providers are ways to expand community support. These activities make your company more than a name to buy from. Lending a hand builds community connections that have a lasting impact on your neighbors and your brand.