This article was originally printed in the October issue of the Business Journal.
We’ve all heard the adage “it is better to give than to receive.” We think of it in the context of helping a child learn the power of being generous instead of being greedy. Turns out that it is very smart business, too!
It seems that any large, successful business has figured out how a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program yields significant benefits. It’s easy to relegate that duty to companies who have more resources; it stands to reason that they would find it easier to implement programs of any substance. However, small companies have as many – or perhaps more – options available to them that are often overlooked.
As a very small business, I struggled with this for years. I dreamed of having a larger impact, but it seemed elusive, completely out of the realm of possibility. Finally, I realized that all things are relative. Every small deed or action we take ripples infinitely to others. What if your small business were to impact just one person in a significant way? Now that person takes that positive influence out to every person she interacts with. Think about the importance of that!
What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
Exactly what is a Corporate Social Responsibility program? It’s a sophisticated term for the concept of ‘better to give than receive!’ Giving to others has a funny way of bringing unexpected good things back to you. That is what CSR is all about. Anyone who has ever volunteered at a non-profit will be the first to tell you that their enjoyment of the experience was even greater than the time, energy, and effort they gave to it.
Individuals and companies in our region have an enormous heart when it comes to helping others. But there is room to do more, and as every small business takes another step, we all prosper, including employees, company leadership, and customers!
Being socially responsible has unexpected benefits
In an article authored by Bridget Pollack, Vice President of Marketing and Communication at SCORE Association, she notes that 55% percent of consumers say they are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies. And even more astonishing, 75% percent of millennials said they consider corporate responsibility when deciding where to work.
Small businesses that are interested in having loyal employees should take note of this statistic, too. Eighty-three percent of millennials said they would be more loyal to a company with a CSR program, according to a recent employee engagement study by Cone Communications, as noted in the article by Pollack.
Michelle Veasey, Executive Director of NH Businesses for Social Responsibility, the statewide organization that helps connect and inform New Hampshire organizations about CSR, sees this in action routinely. As she reflects on the trends, she says, “In my last six years with NHBSR I’ve seen CSR grow from a competitive advantage for early adopters of sustainable business practices to a business necessity for businesses large and small across the state. Companies like W.S. Badger find that the investments they make in workplace programs like Babies at Work pay back many times over when it comes to retaining and attracting the best talent for the job. Additionally, millennials are attracted to companies that encourage community engagement, adding value to their work and connection to their peers.
Do something, no matter how small
Finding the connection from your business to your community can be a fun endeavor! Put your efforts into some creative thinking instead of focusing on what you are taking out of your bank account. It will come back to you in other ways! Besides, doing good doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money.
Volunteering is one of the easiest ways to get started. Offer your employees paid time to volunteer at a non-profit where the team can work on a project together, or let the employee choose a group they are passionate about. Team building benefits will come back to you ten-fold, and the non-profit will benefit from your manpower.
Afterwards host a breakfast, luncheon, or Happy Hour during which everyone shares their experiences. Perhaps even invite the non-profits to hear impressions! Use the opportunity to build and strengthen relationships.
Create a campaign that taps into your organization’s mission and offers a creative way to support others. Last year I began a special initiative called the Graceful Giving Campaign that’s designed to celebrate and support the incredible work of our non-profits. The concept was inspired by my dog, Grace, who was rescued from the streets of Puerto Rico by a non-profit. Grace is also the one behind the dog-inspired leadership insights I offer through my business, PeopleSense Consulting.
The Graceful Giving Campaign is now an annual event that happens in October, around the time of Grace’s birthday. Instead of gifts for Grace, donors support a non-profit by donating any amount, and prizes are awarded. But the important thing is that everyone wins by connecting and expanding their communities.
Focus on an area that aligns with the mission of your business. If you make or sell food products, look at issues that involve hunger. If you make or sell clothing items, explore housing needs. Every single business model offers opportunities to contribute.
All good efforts will return to you
Whatever you do, it will absolutely create a positive impact for others. The icing on the cake is that you will also benefit. Know that even the smallest deed, program, or campaign will yield more than it may appear to on the surface.
I am reminded of another adage: “You cannot change the world, but you can change someone’s world!” Whose world are you about to change?