Small Businesses Make Big Impacts through Philanthropy

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November 6, 2013;

In an article titled The Value of Small Business Philanthropy, reporter Julie Knudson outlines the impact small businesses can have with even modest philanthropic activity; and the benefits back to those businesses—both externally and internally—of fostering a culture of philanthropy. This is not about getting the company logo on t-shirts worn by the local Little League team (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s about alignment and integration, about doing well while doing good.

In much the same way that larger companies focus on strategic corporate philanthropy, small businesses are likely to have the greatest impact when their philanthropic efforts somehow align with the business they are in. One example offered is the owner of a food truck whose philanthropic efforts support sustainable food or local urban gardens.

And again, as with the strategic approach taken by many larger companies, philanthropy is not just about writing checks. An integrated approach that includes employee volunteering (hands-on help or skills-based pro bono work) and in-kind contributions can multiply the impact of even small financial donations. Hands-on volunteering, like painting a senior center or cleaning up a park, can be great team-building experiences for employees. Pro bono work, like offering technology services to a school or helping develop a marketing campaign for a local dance company, allows employees to hone professional skills and reinforce what they know by teaching others.

Of course philanthropic efforts can help with a company’s visibility, reputation and brand building, generating goodwill and even publicity within the local community. But according to Russell L. Hodge III, CFRA, a fundraising and philanthropic consultant, the benefits that accrue within the business may be of equal importance in areas like attracting and retaining “like-minded employees” and competing for talent. Employees who are given opportunities to volunteer on behalf of their employer—or just know that the business they work for considers it important to give back to the community—may feel more connected to the business. As Hodge says, “I think it makes for a better workplace.”—Eileen Cunniffe