Give Time 1You may remember as a child reading the story of The Little Engine That Could or the unlikely victory of the Tortoise and the Hare. But children aren’t the only ones who need to be reminded that bigger isn’t always better, and faster doesn’t always win. Small businesses may sometimes feel they’re too small to matter when it comes to community service. However, the hands-on contributions of smaller businesses can (and do) make a significant impact in the community.

Why Serve in the Community?
There are several benefits and opportunities for small businesses to make an impact and become more visible in the community through service. Taking part in service events gets your business name out in the community and creates a positive brand association. Customers also appreciate community-mindedness and are likely to talk about your service both online and to their peers. Even if you don’t advertise your presence while you volunteer, you can still post pictures on social media so that people see you as a company who gives back.

Working together as a small business in the name of service can foster a positive climate within your workplace. Employees feel good about working for an organization that has a charitable commitment, and this is true regardless of your company size. As it becomes more difficult to hire and retain quality workers, offering the chance to get involved with service projects in a culture of “giving back” is attractive to potential new recruits.

How to Start Serving
There are many options and organizations where your team could give time and serve. How can you choose the right ones for you?

  • Ask employees which charities or causes matter to them, then empower them to give. Provide a certain amount of time per month or per quarter which can be devoted to volunteerism. You could even match their financial giving up to a certain amount. This is an employee benefit that truly benefits others. Share these accomplishments with both internal and external communications to help employees feel valuable and rewarded.
  • Find one cause you really believe in, and pair your corporate service time with an annual corporate donation. This creates a powerful message for the community and demonstrates your company’s leadership toward a specific cause or nonprofit organization. It also helps establish an ongoing relationship with a charitable group, which allows your team to become part of the solution to the problem an organization is trying to solve (adding to your team’s sense of value as employees).
  • You’ll need to establish some parameters toward your corporate giving. For example, consider working alongside organizations who are accredited by the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator or similar accountability standards. Let employees know your parameters when inviting their input toward corporate service options.

The benefits of community service and charitable giving increase over time and leave a lasting impact. From the feel-good atmosphere it promotes in your workplace to the positive image it gives you in the place you do business, this is a practice that is within reach for any size company. Be the little business that could….and does.

Chad Higdon
Executive Director, Second Harvest Community Food Bank

Chad Higdon is the executive director of Second Harvest Community Food Bank, a nonprofit food distribution center serving individuals struggling with food insecurity in 19 counties across Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas. Staff and volunteers distribute food through direct-service programs and through a network of over 100 partner agencies located throughout our service area. Last year, Second Harvest distributed 5.7 million pounds of food to the community and completed accreditation from the Better Business Bureau. To learn more about Second Harvest, please visit http://www.ourcommunityfoodbank.org/.