Giving Back Strategically: A Guide for Small Businesses
When you’re a small business you’re not just part of the community, sometimes you ARE the community.
When we talk to our retailers we often hear that they are perpetually solicited for donations…the local school, the welfare league, sports teams, fundraisers for cancer… each group doing something wonderful in its own right, but the barrage of requests can feel a bit overwhelming for a small business.
So how can a retailer give back to the community they help foster to make the biggest impact without just randomly handing out gift cards and gift baskets?
Get strategic about giving back. First, get involved as a key sponsor, in a community organization that is a fit for your store. Then consider “charity nights” at your shop. And, finally, plan a response for those who come to you and ask for a raffle donation.
Get involved in a community organization
Instead of spreading yourself thin donating to this organization and that fundraiser, consider selecting one community group that you can champion. Select something that is meaningful to you (like the Candle Café’s Pink Forklift honoring a longtime customer who survived cancer) or a fit for your store and really get involved. Join the board as a business, attend meetings, underwrite programming. Be known for your support and share it in your store. This way when the community thinks of your store they will also think of the good you are creating because it will be spotlighted in one place.
Offer charity nights in your store
For your selected community organization, and for other groups that come your way, offering a charity night in your store can be a great way to balance giving back with your need to run a profitable business. Simply offer the charity the chance to take in X% of profits on a specific night. Make sure they advertise this fundraiser to their community so their supporters come and shop your store on the selected night.
And about those requests for raffle items
We know folks are still knocking on your door asking for donations. We suggest donating as much as you feel comfortable with as long as the group is a 501C, meaning you can write the donation off on your taxes.
Gift Cards: These represent a cash donation for your business and can feel like a real outlay. However, they can also bring in new business to your store. According to Total Retail, “shoppers typically spend 38 percent over the face value of their card”. One suggestion is to set a dollar amount at the start of the year that you are willing to give out in gift cards and then set those cards aside so you can keep track of your donations.
Gift Baskets: Donating physical items can be a nice way to clean out the closet. We’re not saying to donate your dogs, that could give your shops a bad name. However, donating items that you may have ordered too much of and you won’t be able to sell before the season ends, can be a path to making way for new merchandise (and you get to write off the donation).
By planning your charity work for the year and really getting involved with a local charity you can be more strategic about how you give back. Then by layering on charity nights with strong groups that can bring in members to shop your store and selectively donating gift cards and raffle items you can have a well-rounded charity program that can have maximum community impact with a halo benefit to your shop.