One aspect of the holidays that I enjoy most is seeing communities come together to support local charities and causes. While many local business owners see giving back as part of the job, a new AT&T poll suggests it may also contribute to their success.Two-thirds of the small businesses polled actively promote their community commitment, while 44 percent said being small and rooted in their neighborhoods actually gives them a sales advantage.
Businesses can have a greater impact when they encourage their customers to get involved. Here are four ideas that I’ve seen work especially well, both during the holidays and at other points during the year:
Offer discounts in exchange for charity contributions
You and your employees might already donate to an area food pantry or families in need. Opening up the effort to your customers can help create a sense of shared purpose. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation suggests these tips for running a successful toy drive. You can also reward customers for participating with paper or mobile coupons. For example, to help a local food drive, an auto repair shop could send a text message to customers offering a coupon for 5 percent off an oil change for every two canned goods donated.
Spread the word
Small businesses can use their community stature to educate customers about the good work their favorite charities do. Spotlight these organizations in your marketing messages, and let customers know how they might get involved. Strengthen your messages by showing customers how your business is contributing. For example, a restaurant could tell its Facebook followers that for every appetizer ordered before 6 p.m. on a given day, $2 will be donated to the local volunteer fire department. The restaurant could also create a Twitter hashtag for the promotion and ask customers to share the news with their friends and neighbors.
Donate to organizations your customers support
Churches, schools and charity events often need gift certificates or merchandise to sell at fundraisers. Many are in need of volunteers, too. You can get involved and help your business at the same time. For example, an accounting firm could offer to do a church’s tax return free of charge or for a low fee. Church members will appreciate the help and may even become customers as news of the firm’s good deed spreads.
Ask employees for help
Matching your community-giving program with your employees’ interests helps make your staff feel good, and it sends a message to your customers that your business is giving back as a team. Nearly half (49 percent) of the businesses AT&T polled said their employees are already active in their communities, so getting behind these efforts can be a natural way to amplify their impact.
For example, if an employee is involved in an after-school program, you might schedule a day to come as a team to read to children in the program. Or, if a staff member volunteers to help clean a local park, you could schedule a day for you and your entire staff to do this once or twice a year. Share your experience with customers through your social media pages. This may encourage them to volunteer themselves, and it can help build goodwill that benefits your business.