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Contributing to your community through philanthropic efforts can do the world and your heart a lot of good. And in many ways, giving back is also good for business.

Large or small, companies play pivotal roles in shaping their communities. There is certainly an economic impact, as dollars spent locally multiply to create ongoing value. Beyond that immediate benefit, research shows that committed businesses that align with local causes end up encouraging additional charitable giving in their communities.

In addition to leading by example, a genuine philanthropic commitment can quickly become a central tenet of a company’s identity. With social responsibility playing an increasingly important role in consumer buying decisions, blending your passion projects with your business operations can do a lot of good.

Why Philanthropy Should Be a Part of Your Business

Making philanthropy a part of your brand makes good business sense. Almost nine out of 10 consumers say they prefer brands that support causes they believe in. This consideration works both ways, too; 67 percent of consumers will not do business with a company whose values differ from their own.

Done correctly, your company’s mission statement should describe your core values. It should communicate your beliefs about how you treat your customers and employees, and it should showcase your responsibility to your community and to the world at large.

My company, for instance, focuses its philanthropy on programs that benefit children throughout Texas and the U.S. Through the David & Teresa Disiere Foundation, we focus on donations and sponsorships of educational institutions, scholarship funds, relief funds for families affected by natural disasters, and aid for children from at-risk families. My company transformed our passion for helping children into an integral part of our company identity, adding an important dimension to our business in the process.

In addition to helping individuals who need a hand, charitable work that highlights your company’s commitment to the community can drive business to your brand through word of mouth. As people share the story of your company providing aid, your brand’s standing in the community rapidly rises.

3 Ways to Showcase Your Community Spirit

Becoming a recognized force for good in your community is about more than big monetary donations. Instead of approaching philanthropy as a financial undertaking, put in some sweat equity and explore different options to find the right fit for your business.

1. Sponsor something you believe in.

Sponsorships are great for businesses that want to reach broad audiences and grow quickly. From a Little League team to a 5K race, associating your company with a local organization instantly conveys your commitment and builds your reputation. In addition, your brand gets positive exposure. For bigger events, you might even garner some positive press or social media mentions.

When you tie your business to a sponsorship, you help customers form positive opinions about your brand. In fact, a 2016 study by the Event Marketing Institute found that 74 percent of consumers are more likely to buy products they learn about via an event.

2. Volunteer to share your time and talents.

Philanthropy involves more than a checkbook. Look for volunteer opportunities that enable you and your employees to use your talents for a good cause. Establishing a program that encourages volunteerism among employees is an effective way to get involved in the community — especially when your finances are tight.

Businesses big and small can take inspiration from AT&T’s volunteer program, which encourages employees to volunteer on their own as well as through company-coordinated events such as building a playground or packaging meals for the homeless. In 2017, AT&T employees contributed an impressive 1.78 million volunteer hours to their communities.

In addition to building brand recognition, a volunteer program can be an excellent recruiting and retention tool. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, and they have strong opinions about the importance of community service. According to a study by Cone Research, two-thirds of Millennials will only consider taking a job if the company in question has a strong sense of corporate social responsibility.

3. Get active with your local chamber of commerce.

One of the simplest paths to community engagement is becoming an active member of your local chamber of commerce. Membership comes with obvious business benefits, including access to strategic resources, networking opportunities, and referrals. But it can also provide opportunities to get involved with key local philanthropic causes and volunteer events.

As a member of your local chamber, your business gains credibility. One study indicates that consumers are 44 percent more likely to view a small business favorably when they know the company is a member of its local chamber of commerce. Those favorable perceptions pay off, with 64 percent of respondents claiming they are more likely to do business with these companies.

As a business leader, you have a unique opportunity to influence your community for the better. Any sort of philanthropy can be a big win for your brand, but the entire experience will be infinitely more rewarding if you target charitable causes that are near and dear to your heart. This personal approach will ensure you don’t lose interest after a few months of giving back — and favorable business results will likely follow.