Social responsibility in business has become an important business trend across America, especially as employees and customers continue to raise their expectations around the companies they choose to work for and support. So how do you, as a business owner, find ways for your company to be socially responsible?
The first step is to choose a cause. Think about the kind of mission you would like your business to support and consider how that mission aligns with your business. There doesn’t have to be a direct alignment, but when it comes time to give back, having a more direct connection can be helpful. For example, if you own a restaurant, it might make more sense to support a food bank than an animal rescue organization.
Once you’ve chosen a general cause (or two), put together a list of non-profit organizations in your community that you could partner with to support that cause. Make sure they are reputable and that they could benefit from the time, talent and treasure you bring to the table. When you’ve narrowed that list down to three or four organizations, contact each of those organizations for more information on how you could get involved without making any promises. Once you have a few examples of the kind of volunteering or fundraising you’d be doing for each of those organizations, let your staff vote on which one you choose.
When the votes are in, reach back out to the organization your staff chose to let them know they’ve been selected and to see what kinds of projects or efforts your company can be involved in over the six few months. Talk through your expectations and see what that organization expects from you and your team. Get volunteer opportunities on the calendar while the partnership is still fresh, discuss possible fundraising or sponsorship opportunities, etc.
Communicate the partnership back to your team and share the opportunities they will have to be involved. If at all possible, schedule volunteer time during the work day. Yes, it will cost you in productivity, but it will pay dividends in morale and, eventually, in sales.
Share the story without selling it. The perception that a company is socially responsible often starts with social media. Post photos of your team – in their company shirts – at the food bank, share event posts with your sponsorship information attached, encourage the community to support the same cause… but never use any of these things as a platform for direct marketing. Let the community see what kind of company you own and let your customers and employees make their own assertions.
One of the biggest mistakes small business owner make when it comes to social responsibility is thinking the work is ever complete. You can pat yourself on the back for volunteering at the holiday food bank in the 10-degree weather, but don’t forget to sign up to help with their spring clean-up or sponsor their next fun run. Consistency is key.