More than ever, social responsibility is a character trait consumers look for when deciding whether or not to do business with a company. If you’re a small business owner in your community, ignoring this fact may very well result in your business being passed up for a more conscientious competitor.

A recent study examining consumer attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors around corporate social responsibility found that 87 percent of consumers would purchase a product because a company advocated about an issue that mattered to them.

Consumers in the survey identified the following traits of companies that give back:

  • They’re good employers
  • They operate in a way that protects and benefits society and the environment
  • They create products and services that ensure individual wellbeing
  • They invest in both community and global causes
  • They stand up for important social justice issues

If gaining customers based on your willingness to give back isn’t enough motivation, consider this: Companies that give back are more successful overall. A positive reputation can yield many benefits for you as a small business owner. For starters, businesses with philanthropic reputations not only attract customers, but their reputations also help them to attract superior employees.

Finding Ways to Give Back

Many small businesses want to give back but believe their financial limitations preclude them from doing so. But, even those businesses without deep corporate pockets can find affordable and meaningful ways to give back. Here are some ideas to help your small business get started.

Keep giving top of mind. If you want to make giving back a priority, it deserves a place on your monthly or quarterly planning agenda. Just as you plan out other aspects of your business and its finances, you and your staff will be more inclined to make philanthropy a priority if you regularly brainstorm and talk about ideas and ways to give back.

Think locally. As a small business owner, giving back can — and should — start in your own community. Consider sponsoring a local cause by making a donation and using your company’s visibility to help draw attention to that cause. Is there a local animal shelter you can donate to or volunteer your time to? If so, ask them to provide you posters or flyers that you can display in your business to encourage deeper community involvement from consumers and other businesses in your area.

Reduce your company’s environmental footprint. One of the first and simplest ways small businesses can give back on a global scale is to “think green.” Identify ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. This can include everything from adopting an in-office recycling program, to switching to paperless billing. You can also make it a goal to only work with suppliers and other companies that are environmentally minded.

Offer staff incentives for volunteering. In addition to setting an example for your employees, you can offer them incentives to get involved in their community as well. Offer your employees a day off each month or each quarter for volunteering in your community. You can also offer recognition or some sort of prize or compensation to employees that take an active role in bettering your community. You don’t have to break the bank here. For example, you could offer a $50 gift card to a popular local restaurant or movie theater.

Help out other businesses. Local businesses are often competitive. But you can improve your reputation by taking a community-minded approach and connecting — rather than competing — with other area businesses. Promote neighboring businesses by partnering with them where possible or even linking to their business on your own website. You can also participate in Small Business Saturday or other local events. Contact your local chamber of commerce to learn about other opportunities to attend, sponsor or host events in support of other local businesses or causes. Connecting with and supporting other small businesses in your area will help establish your company as a good business — and community — neighbor.

Find a local youth sports team to support. For local youth sports, even a small donation can make a big difference. Find a team in your community that you can sponsor financially and you will likely get some free publicity in return. Ask a representative if they would be willing to put your logo on the team’s uniforms or if they could advertise your company on a game-day banner in exchange for your financial support.

These are just a handful of simple and affordable ways your small business can give back to the community. By doing one or more of these things, your business can reap the rewards of a strong sense of community involvement and connection. Your bottom line will also benefit from a positive reputation. In the long-term, a positive philanthropic reputation will also contribute to a healthy resale value, making your company more attractive to potential buyers if and when the time comes that you choose to sell your small business.