Creative ideas about how to make a difference without a lot of extra cash or time
Just about every business owner wants to do his or her part to make the world a better place, but the reality is that it can be difficult for business owners to make it a top priority while they’re trying to build their companies. For every Bill Gates who can donate billions of dollars to fight malaria and AIDS, there are thousands of business owners who are still trying to juggle their day-to-day operations and think they don’t have the cash – or the time – to get involved in social responsibility. They should think again.
The reality is that just about every company not only can make a difference, but should make the effort to do so, even if it doesn't have a glut of cash or time. In fact, getting involved can not only help others, but it can actually help your business grow in unexpected ways. All it takes is a bit of creativity.
Donate Time. For many charitable groups, internal business expertise is a scarce resource. Even if you don’t have a lot of cash on hand, chances are a not-for-profit organization will appreciate your providing services free of charge.
Act Locally. If your business focuses on a particular geographic area, think of ways to make a difference in your community. If you run an accounting firm, look for a local charity that might need help with its tax work. Chances are the effort won’t hit your wallet very hard, and you’ll be making a real difference for people who need your expertise.
Pick a Relevant Cause. It’s important to work with groups that are related to your area of expertise. For example, if you run a flooring company, donate supplies or labor to a local group that builds or refurbishes homes for low-income residents.
Join a Service Group. If you can’t dedicate a lot of company resources to a charitable group, consider joining a group such as Rotary International that runs local and global programs. This will give you the flexibility of being as involved as you want to be.
Cynics argue that companies get involved with charitable causes for selfish reasons. While there are business owners who overplay their hand, the reality is that it’s not an either/or situation. Smart companies know how to make a real difference while at the same time helping their own cause.
Network. Working with a not-for-profit group will put you in touch with other like-minded individuals who care about the same things you do. Don’t be afraid to make connections that will help you grow your company.
Help Others Get Involved. If you’re working with a charitable group, don’t be afraid to enlist your friends and business contacts to chip in. While asking them to make a financial commitment might be uncomfortable, use your judgment. Asking them to consider making an in-kind donation of labor or services can be a great way to make a real difference.
Be Modest. No one likes a braggart - and everyone knows a local businessperson who can’t stop bragging about how much good work he or she does. It’s okay to let people know you are helping others, but do so in a way that isn’t going to make people question your motives.
-- Derrick Daye