How to choose which community projects to support
Giving back to your community is easier than you think. It needn’t be costly or time-consuming and the benefits for businesses that are socially responsible are well-documented. Consumers want to shop with companies that support their local community. Choosing a project or cause to support makes your customers, staff and the people in your community feel good. Here’s how to choose the right one for you.
What works best for your business?
Many companies these days organize days off where staff volunteer their time within the community. This could be tree-planting, donating blood or volunteering at a food bank or homeless shelter. This isn’t practical for every business, but giving groups of employees a paid day to volunteer pays dividends in staff morale and improved teamwork and often they learn new skills they can bring back to the store.
“There are so many (options), we couldn’t even list all the things you could do, and not all of them take money,” says Brad Olsen, owner of Ok Tire Factory in Okanogan, Washington. “Some of them just take donating your time, like going out to the local sports complex and pulling weeds for the day. That helps our community to shine when out-of-towners come in, then they see it as a nice place to be and they spend their money in our motels and restaurants and come back.”
There is always the option of supporting your community in-store. Revive Auto Repair in Michigan runs a Low Income Auto Repair Services program offering discounts, and parts and tires at wholesale rates, to customers based on their income. The aim, the company says, is to “help individuals and families with low income maintain the mobility they need to stay working in Michigan.” Others have introduced special deals, such as free oil changes for veterans on Veterans Day.
Talk to your staff
Getting your employees involved in choosing the project or cause they want to support fosters better teamwork and morale. Perhaps there is a cause personal to them – think about asking your staff to each nominate something or someone and then have a vote.
“We sponsor local schools with sporting events, or say someone has a life-threatening disease like cancer, we will be involved in fundraisers so they can get better treatment,” Olsen said. “So it can be anything from an individual cause, to a school event, to major community stuff and our staff get really involved.”
Talk to your community
Ask the community what it needs and look at your local area to see what’s important. Are the schools struggling with sporting equipment? Does the animal shelter need donations? There are thousands of different community projects out there in need of support, from charities and refuges, to church and school groups and associations, to individuals fallen on hard times, and environmental work.
Olsen and his Ok Tire Factory team responded to community need during the devastating bushfires that swept the area. They went door-to-door giving out cases of bottled water as many residents were left without potable water to drink. It was a ‘no-brainer’ according to Olsen, who is heavily invested in his community and whose business was last year’s Point S Tire Factory Community Service Award winner.
“If there’s no community, we don’t have any business,” Olsen said. “You want to see that your community is taken care of. I have three children that are all grown up and I have grandchildren and the community supported us when we had kids, when they were growing up.
“The community comes in and they buy product from us and they keep us going so that we can be part of the community. So I feel like I’m giving back for what they’ve done for me in the past too.”