I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression, “survival of the fittest”, and although this expression specifically comes from the Darwinian theory of evolution, it has also been adopted by the business world. In business, you should look out for number 1 (aka yourself, or at most your bottom line), preferably at the expense of all others.
Turns out, that’s actually not true, human beings are hardwired for giving to others, and our brains tend to default to the “Golden Rule” when making decisions. Naturally, this means the “dog eat dog” approach in business actually isn’t the healthiest, and an approach which includes giving back to others is the better business decision.
Not convinced? Well, in addition to our brains defaulting to altruism, finding ways to give back in your business has a range of other positive effects:
It raises morale in your business because it makes you (and your employees) feel like what you’re doing matters, and is changing the world for the better
It can be a source of pride to your customers or clients to know that their money is making a positive impact.
And last, but absolutely not least, it improves the lives of others
Still not convinced? Well if you need a truly selfish reason to give back to others, it’s really good marketing for your business. 82% of customers consider corporate social responsibility when making purchase decisions (and there’s a lot of research that millenials in particular purchase from brands that give back in ways that align with their values). So it’s good for your business’s bottom line too!
Choosing a cause
The first step is to identify causes that align with the values of your business, or are particularly important to you. If you’re choosing a cause that is close to your heart, but unrelated to the business you run, make sure you share the story of why you’ve decided to support this cause. This will help customers connect with why it’s important to you, instead of it feeling like you’ve just picked a cause at random to support.
Otherwise, think about the core values of your business; what’s most important to you and how could this translate to giving back?
If your focus is on educating women, could you support a program to educate girls in developing countries and help them break the cycle of poverty?
If your focus is on teaching young people how to cook healthy, affordable meals, could you support a charity that helps feed people experiencing homelessness or financial difficulty?
If your focus is offering cleaning services to the local community, could you support the local school fete or sports team?
You don’t have to choose one cause (though it’s a good idea to start with so you don’t feel overwhelmed), you could pick a mix of larger international charities and local ones, or one that aligns with your business, and one that is important to you personally.
When you’re doing your yearly planning for your business, consider how and when you can give back to the wider community. By including it as part of your planning, rather than making it an activity you do “when you get the chance” (which is never when you run a small business), it will feel less overwhelming, and hopefully over time it will just become a habit.
Want some inspiration?
Here’s a few ideas:
Donate your expertise to a charity or event (e.g. organising the marketing for a local fair)
Decide to offer your services gratis if a charity approaches you to hire you
Sponsor a local sports team
Do a food drive. If you have a physical location, you can put the call out that people are welcome to drop off goods (and make sure to specify the kind of goods) to your office. If you don’t have a physical location, you could promote a local drive happening at a supermarket or similar (a lot of police stations run drives around the holidays) or use some of your profits to make a purchase to donate.
Donate a percentage of profits and focus on small local charities.
If you have a team that works for you - consider doing a team event (like Oz Harvest’s “Cook For A Cause”)
Allow your employees to take paid time off so they can volunteer for their favourite charity.
When making vendor decisions, research if there is a small business that offers the service (rather than a large company).
Do a sale where all profits will be donated to a charity you support, or develop a product where profits from the sale of that product goes to charity.