by Lorraine Wilde
Getting—and keeping—our customer’s attention can seem tougher than ever. How can you and your business be seen and remembered among the digital noise? By becoming a trusted brand when you earn your community’s respect.
Successful businesses become pillars of a community by providing jobs, stimulating the economy, and lifting others up by supporting charitable organizations. They earn their community’s respect by being an active, generous part of it.
The boundaries of community may have expanded globally, but there are more opportunities than ever to connect and get involved. Here are six ways you can use your business to give back, along with examples of female business owners who have used their own creativity to connect in authentic, personal ways.
Donate Your Skills
Offering your skills to support activities of organizations you already admire saves them money and allows your work—and support for community—to shine.
Sarah Rorvig of Vivaluxx School of Makeup Art in Bellingham, WA donates her makeup skills and those of her students to an annual fundraising runway show, Handbags for Housing. Award-winning Floral Designer Natalie Ransom of Pozie by Natalie contributes floral centrepieces to the event. Proceeds benefit Lydia Place whose mission is to disrupt the cycle of homelessness and promote sustained independence. “I love giving back as much as I can as an artist. It feels good that our team helped them raise more than $90,000,” remembers Rorvig. “And my students expanded their experience and built new professional connections too.”
Philanthropy in Professional Organizations
Many companies cover the annual dues for appropriate professional organizations. Find the best fit for your profession or interests and then check with Human Resources to see if that’s a benefit at your office.
Once you’re in, check out established charity programs and committees or support students or young professionals within mentoring programs.
Nancy Leavitt of American Family Insurance has served as the Charity Committee Chair with Whatcom Women in Business (WWIB), annually awarding more than $20,000 in academic scholarships to local high school students.
Ransom mentors fellow business owners in her local Chamber and WWIB. “My parents instilled in me that I can do almost anything,” shares Ransom. “But I know that not everyone grew up with that or has that confidence, so it’s important to me to share that message. If you work hard, anything is possible.”
Get on Board
Once you’ve gotten to know an organization, make a bigger impact by joining their Board. You can help make decisions that guide and improve the future of the organization. Most of the world’s nonprofits wouldn’t exist without the donated time and genius of their Board.
Leavitt has held board positions with Boys and Girls Clubs, Women Sharing Hope, Whatcom Young Professionals and WWIB. Ransom has been on the Board of Blue Skies for Children and WWIB. “Supporting local charity is near and dear to my heart. It’s just part of who I am so I am honored to have served these organizations and the local charities they support,” explains Leavitt.
Build Strong Business Partnerships
Partnering with other businesses means you can tackle bigger projects and reach a larger audience than you might alone. You spread the workload and share your customer bases. Choose businesses with appropriate, established customers that you are not yet accessing. But be sure to vet new partners to protect your brand. Focus on events or promotions that are mutually beneficial, creative and fun for you and your customers.
Ransom rewards her devoted social media followers with floral Treasure Hunts. “I take a floral arrangement or terrariums to my favorite local businesses,” explains Ransom. “The first Facebook or Instagram follower to guess the business and pick it up wins! It’s a generous way to introduce people to new businesses while also making someone’s day!”
Rorvig and Ransom also partner with local photographers on passion project styled shoots. The resulting photography has appeared in some of the most influential publications in their industries.
Don’t Forget the Match
Larger companies will often match your donation up to a maximum dollar amount. Some paperwork may be required, but it could double or triple your donation. Don’t be afraid to ask HR. Your inquiry may just spark a new company policy.
Leavitt discovered that corporate American Family Insurance would match her annual ‘Quotes for Community’ campaigns where she donates $1 for every insurance quote requested throughout the month to local charity.
Go Slow—Every Little Bit Helps
Life and work are already pretty full so how are you supposed to add something new? By starting slow and being selective. Professional Coach Cheryl Richardson’s advice is my mantra, “If it’s not an absolute YES, it’s a NO.” Take time to learn how to say no gracefully, let the guilt go, and only give your YES to what’s really important.
Though these business women helped raise modest amounts or donated just a few hours of their time, their efforts have endeared them to their communities. They have made a tangible, memorable difference and laid the foundation for others to follow in their path. By earning the respect of their communities, they’ve made many new, life-long customers and friends. You can too. That first step is up to you.
Lorraine Wilde. Founder of the public relations company Wilde World Communications, Lorraine Wilde has published more than 200 articles, blog posts and essays. She writes about what inspires her. That includes the arts, music, film, science, motherhood and the amazing female business owners in her corner of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She uses her business to support local charities and fellow business owners in her community and beyond. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.