This article was updated on May 25, 2021
Did you know that 94% of people say they'd rather buy local than from a big chain? But one of the hurdles many small businesses face is finding creative and cost-effective ways to advertise who they are, what they do, and where they are.
One solution: Community involvement.
Unlike big chain stores, local businesses have closer access to customers. That means businesses like yours can have a direct positive impact on your community by getting more involved. Doing good for the community and partaking in a service project is also good for business. Not only will volunteering build community leaders among your organization, but it will also show that your business is trying to make a difference within your neighborhood.
You may be wondering how to find ways to get involved in your community. Five of the most common ways are volunteering, supporting a cause, hosting events, sponsoring a school activity, and supporting fellow businesses. Read on to learn about each option and get some unique ideas on how to get started.
Signing up for volunteer opportunities might seem like an easy decision, but others may consider volunteering an individual or family activity instead of something they could do as a business. Here are some ways you can get your small businesses involved in the community through activities that are perfect for neighborhood groups.
Volunteer with nonprofit organizations
There are certain times when local nonprofits are busier. These are great opportunities to organize a large group from your business and local community to help out. Whether you are helping a local school, community center, or soup kitchen, there are many ways to do volunteer work.
Food banks need more volunteers during and after a big food drive. Volunteers can collect donations, unpack and sort items, assemble giveaway baskets and bags, or put overstock away in the storage area.
Soup kitchens and homeless shelters can always use more helping hands around holidays and during the colder seasons.
Can you guess when the busiest day is for animal shelters? On July 5, animal shelters regularly see a spike in stray dogs as some pooches just don't take kindly to fireworks.
#2 Help fundraise for a cause
Perhaps you have a personal interest in a specific organization like Breast Cancer Awareness, American Heart Association, United Way, Alzheimer's Association, Habitat for Humanity, The Humane Society, and Operation Gratitude to name a few.
Choose a cause that’s important to you, your team members, and your business, and show your support by helping fundraise. There’s nothing to lose when you organize a community event or create a neighborhood team to participate in one of the many national nonprofit fundraisers.
Donna and Lauren, co-owners of Arenal Fitness in Baltimore, MD, frequently support local events and charitable causes that are important to them and their gym members.
Our members often come to us with causes that are important to them and we try our best to support them by allowing them to use our gym to host a charitable-themed workout. In addition, we support local events such as 5Ks and triathlons by donating our programs and services. This is a great way to get our name out to the community and let them know about the programs that we offer.
Volunteer activities are a great way to meet new people (and potential customers) whose ideals and values match your own. Encourage employees to get into the habit of volunteering by presenting opportunities to do so as a team throughout the year. Support their desire to volunteer on their own by offering incentives and time off.
#3 Offer space to host events
Does your small business have a physical location? If so, this opens the doors for more ideas on how to get your small business involved in the community.
Host a monthly Meet 'n' Greet and encourage regular attendees to invite new community members. Plan longer get-togethers during less busy times.
Organize a local chapter of your favorite Meetup. If one already exists, reach out to the organizer and offer your business as a meeting location. Book clubs, writer's groups, and support groups always appreciate a change in scenery.
Neighborly tip: Need social media content ideas that aren't sales-y or promotional? Hosting a regular event at your place of business gives you a reason to share and post.
#4 Sponsor a school activity
A sports team typically comes to mind when school sponsorships come up. Sponsoring a school sports team helps your local business develop bonds with a lot of community members at once: players, parents, coaches, and fans. But what if sports aren't your passion?
Consider these alternative sponsorship opportunities:
- Band or school orchestra performance
- Science club/fair or any other extracurricular club you fancy
- The art department's next art show
- A drama club theater performance
Ask the school administration or the staff member who heads up the club if you can purchase several sets of tickets to use as giveaways. And, of course, attend events yourself.
If giving financially is not an option, consider supporting schools with your industry expertise and time.
GT Automotive, a local auto repair shop in South Jordan, UT, regularly partners with high school classes and runs a special program with the local Boy Scouts of America. Sam, the company's marketing manager, tells us,
We teach an automotive class to help Scouts with earning their Automotive Maintenance Merit Badge. It's a program we have been running for some time now and really enjoy sharing our knowledge with these future leaders. It's important for us to be involved with the community because we live here and the success of the community takes all members. Supporting others to be self-sufficient, in the best way we know how, seems like the obvious thing to do.
#5 Partner with local businesses
According to American Express, for every dollar spent at a local business, 67 cents stays in the local community. Of that 67 cents, 44 cents go to the owner and employees in the form of wages and benefits, while 23 cents are reinvested in other local businesses.
Since local businesses typically work with other local suppliers, the money spent by consumers does not support just that one business, but also all the others who provide them with supplies and services.
Consider partnering with other local businesses in the neighborhood. Not only will you benefit from building better relationships with fellow businesses, but it can also be a way to get help with marketing from both sides.
Whitney and Phil, co-owners of Broken Spoke Boutique based in Valentine, NE, shared with us their ideas for supporting locals by promoting other businesses in their town.
Once a month on Fridays, we post on social media about "Free Coffee Day" or "Free Sandwich Day" and get with local coffee shops and sandwich places and pay the bill for anyone that goes into the highlighted business and shows our social posts to the cashier. Keeping the money in town gives back to our community and makes the place we live a better place.
For Lisa, who owns artisan tea company Big Heart Tea Co, her community in St. Louis, MO, is the bedrock of her business in spite of getting national distribution in big retailers like Anthropologie. She tells us,
We still get our packages printed locally, we source art from local photographers and designers, and we deliver in-person to our community cafes. We hire from our business's ZIP code to blend, process, and fulfill all our orders.
The money you share with local talent will keep circulating within your city's economy. Plus, you solidify relationships with your neighbors and create new ones. It's what makes your city really feel like home, and the business world tends to undervalue that!
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