By Abby Jarvis
The relationship between small businesses (or companies of any size, for that matter) and nonprofit organizations is often mutually beneficial. Nonprofits ask for donations; companies respond by sponsoring nonprofits' important projects. Nonprofits need volunteer hours; companies have manpower and time they can offer.
Small businesses do not often have extremely developed corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, but that doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't lend a helping hand to nonprofits.
Take a look at the primary ways small businesses can help nonprofit organizations. And while you're at it, check out the role that businesses play when it comes to social change.
If you want to give your employees a chance to bond as a team and effect some positive change at the same time, why not host a volunteer day?
You can choose a local nonprofit that does work your employees are connected to in some way. For instance, if you have an office full of dog-lovers, you might want to spend a day at a local animal shelter. If your workers are always recycling and separating their paper and plastic, connect with an environmental organization to clean up your local area.
Wherever you plan on volunteering, make sure that it's a fun and memorable time for your employees.
You might even be able to form a strong partnership with the nonprofit you volunteer with. That could potentially lead to more opportunities for your employees to help improve your community.
Many larger corporations match their employees' donations to nonprofit organizations. However, smaller companies often don't have an established policy for matching gifts.
If your employees enjoy giving money to their favorite charities, why not give those funds a boost and match them?
You don't necessarily have to immediately start matching gifts at a 4:1 ratio; start slow and create a program that has room to grow.
You might find it useful to limit the types of nonprofits to which your employees can donate at first. Eventually, you can expand the program to include any and all organizations to which your employees give.
Additionally, you can use your matching-gift program as a way to demonstrate your corporate social responsibility to the community.
Many nonprofits have a "Ways to Give" page where they explain how supporters can give to their cause. They might list out a multitude of resources so donors and volunteers can get a better idea of how to support the organization.
Your small business can create a similar resource page to give your employees a list of ways to give to nonprofits such as:
This point will likely differ depending on the type of company you run or work for, but it's worth considering as a way to give back to nonprofits.
If your employees have skills or services that they can lend to an organization, encourage them to do so! You can offer legal advice, account services or marketing consultation to small nonprofits that may be unable to pay for these types of services or hire outside help.
You could also teach classes to nonprofit professionals in an area that you're familiar with.
Offering skills-based services is essentially a form of volunteerism, but it makes use of the strengths that your employees already possess. The nonprofit benefits by receiving specialized services and time from people who are skilled at what they do.
If you or someone in your company has a real passion for philanthropy, you might consider applying to become a nonprofit board member.
Granted, being a nonprofit board member is an unpaid volunteer position that might require a lot of work, but it might be a good fit for an employee who wants to serve in a more committed, long-term position.
Many nonprofit board members may be major gift donors or people with extensive knowledge of the nonprofit world, but don't let that stop anyone in your small business from pursuing a seat on a board.
Even if you're a super small company with limited resources, you can still help nonprofits out by lending them your office space.
You'll need to talk to the organization's leadership to work out the logistics and determine what expectations are for both parties.
You might be able to help a nonprofit with their next advocacy campaign by giving them extra room to train volunteers or make signs and flyers.
Or, if a nonprofit is expanding and has outgrown its own offices, you can offer your space until it finds somewhere new.
Whatever the circumstances, lending your company's office space is a good way to forge strong business/nonprofit relationships or strengthen the ones you already have.
After a long day at the office, your employees might not find the idea of going to a nonprofit event the most thrilling end-of-day activity. However, attending events doesn't just result in more support for charitable organizations, but they are also great ways for your employees to have a shared experience outside of work.
Many of your employees might donate to nonprofits, but they might not have a very personal relationship with a charity.
Attending a nonprofit event, whether it's a fundraiser, rally, seminar or anything in between, can be an inexpensive way to show your support of an organization.
These seven ways small businesses can help nonprofits are by no means the only ones. You might find that something else works even better for your company. Tweak and adjust to find out what your employees enjoy that also gives maximum benefits to nonprofits.
What about your small business? What success have you had supporting nonprofits? What types of programs do your employees enjoy taking part in?
Graphics courtesy of the author
Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she's not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.