Being a part of your community and participating in local philanthropic activities allows your business to reflect a positive image while strengthening relationships with your neighbors and customers. Smart entrepreneurs will leverage their small business as a tool, donating time and resources, to make a significant impact in their community and enhance the sustainability of their business.
I have been a Chem-Dry franchisee in Southern Indiana for over 25 years. Over those years, I have actively sought out philanthropic work which has resulted in a stronger business that has expanded to new territories and better relationships within my community. There are several simple steps you can take to ensure philanthropy plays a larger part in your small business.
Align with your passions
Whether you join the Chamber of Commerce to broaden your connections, sit on the board of trustees of an organization or participate in a local fundraiser, the possibilities of engaging in your community are endless. To help narrow your focus, begin thinking about your passions and a cause that is personally meaningful to you. Ideally, it also relates to your business in some way.
Since I was a child, animal welfare has been a passion, so embracing the Chem-Dry partnership with Best Friends Animal Society – raising awareness and funds to support shelter pet adoption – was a natural fit. Since we have several pet-related services and over 80% of our customers own pets, it’s also a great fit for our business. Our team participated in local fundraising events and donated a portion of our proceeds to help fund local animal shelters. This year, our efforts paid and we surpassed our national fundraising goal.
Partnering with organizations you care about creates a certain authenticity to your philanthropic efforts. Being part of something that you genuinely want to succeed makes your effort that much more meaningful and effective. The organization, community, and your customers will take notice.
Involve your employees and your customers
Communicate with your staff about the philanthropic ideas you are considering. Involve them in the brainstorming process and solicit their ideas to help energize the entire staff and generate their excitement and buy-in for contributing toward the effort.
Aim to find ways to involve your customers. Whether it is asking them to participate on a volunteer day, stop by an event you’re sponsoring, purchase a promotional good/service in which proceeds benefit a certain cause or making a direct donation – there are plenty of ways charitable efforts can result in increased customer engagement. Your customers will feel good about doing business with you because of the difference you are making to better the community.
Get specific – how will you help?
There are so many different ways you can contribute to a non-profit organization – event sponsorship, making a check donation, putting in volunteer hours, donating goods/services, running a special offer with a built-in donation, etc., but ask yourself what makes the most sense for your business?
Consider your budget, consider your resources, consider the impact you are seeking to make and how this all aligns with your business core values.
Successful philanthropic efforts are built steadily over time. It is important not to get involved until you’ve established your business and are comfortable managing the responsibilities carried with it.
Giving back and involving your business in charitable work does not have to be complicated. Start simple. Take a comprehensive look at your values and reach out to organizations that excite you, your staff, and your customers. Involve them in the decision-making efforts and the execution of the partnership. Map out your goals and get specific about the steps you need to take to reach them. Ingraining yourself in your community with philanthropic work and your values of giving back will allow your team to make a positive impact, be part of something bigger and feel good about working with and for you.
Ann Windell is a multi-unit franchisee for Chem-Dry Carpet Cleaning, the world’s largest carpet and upholstery cleaning franchise system. She has been serving residents and business owners of Southern Indiana and Northern Kentucky for more than 25 years. Prior to working with Chem-Dry, she worked as an employee for Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas. Her interest in running a franchise business stemmed from working alongside a close friend and local operator of a Chem-Dry franchise in Texas. Ann later decided to return to her home state of Indiana and signed an agreement to be a multi-unit Chem-Dry franchise owner, now serving two territories. In 2017, Ann won The Heart of Chem-Dry award, for her volunteer work with three animal rescues. She is also active with a number of non-profit organizations in Southern Indiana and is a mentor to employees looking to become entrepreneurs.