Why Working with Local Charities Could Help your Business Succeed
Apart from the feel-good factor of supporting charities, working with non-profits could help boost your business’ network and company image. Find out how…
It’s a good time to be starting a business. The economy is strengthening, the market is buoyant and banks are back in a lending mood. Bank of England figures show a net rise of £235m in lending to small and mid-sized enterprises in June.
The extant mood might be positive, or even cautiously optimistic, yet starting and running a small business still requires a great deal of time and effort. It can be difficult to know where that time and effort is best spent in order to develop the partnerships that can do so much for the growth of a business.
Building your business’ network
In my experience of starting up and running a business, founding Holiday Rentals in 1996 and Localgiving in 2008, it can be very difficult to justify time spent away from the computer forming these partnerships – which are often at trade shows and events dotted all around the country, or even around the world. However, there are often untapped partnerships closer to home that can help establish a young business in the local community for negligible cost.
The best partnerships are truly symbiotic, in that both parties experience tangible benefits from the relationship. In my opinion, one of the most cost-effective and mutually beneficial partnerships for small businesses is with local charities and community groups. Though both groups may be hesitant to consider such partnerships as small businesses might struggle to gauge whether it’s worth the investment and smaller charities – often staffed by volunteers – can be hesitant to allocate time away from their charitable work.
Standing out from the crowd
As a start-up, it’s likely that the road to profitability won’t necessarily always be a smooth one, so it might seem inappropriate to give financial support to local charities. Yet there are other channels and methods of local giving for companies with financial constraints – an example is enrolling customers and suppliers to use their resources to support community organisations.
Companies can even make corporate social responsibility (CSR) part of their supplier selection process, and use this to differentiate themselves from others in the same space when they pitch for new business. At no direct cost to the business, companies can stand out from their competitors and forge closer relationships with suppliers and customers.
A little goes a long way
For local charities, small donations can make a startling difference to their ability to serve the community and continue the excellent work they do. If a small business is able to offer a local charity a few hundred pounds a year from staff fundraising activity it can cement that charity’s future helping the community. For local charities there’s a huge benefit from businesses reaching out to them.
For the business, partnering with a local charity offers myriad benefits at a very low cost. It can have an energising effect on staff and bring them together as a unit if, for example, they take part in a company fun run or bake sale. Anything which can boost cohesion among colleagues is extremely valuable to companies and working together to support a local cause can generate a feeling of wellbeing that can permeate through a smaller company.
The benefits of a happy, motivated staff have been the focus of countless studies. A recent estimate from the Happy Planet Index found that companies with 250 employees could save £500,000 by keeping a happy workplace. This estimate factors in the money lost from absent staff, employee turnover and low productivity – positive, structured engagement with the wider community can contribute to this.
Benefit and enhance your company image
It can also cement a growing business in the minds of the local community. Local charities are often in a position to offer low-cost sponsorship opportunities for events they run in the local community. By publicly supporting local charities in this way, a business can become synonymous with supporting the community in the minds of local people. A Foresters survey found that 89% of consumers think businesses should support charities and their local communities and 82% said that when offered a choice between identical products or services, their purchasing decision would be affected by whether a company engaged with charities and its local community.
Companies which proactively form ties with local charities can stimulate a loyalty towards the business which can otherwise take years to grow. By working with local charities, businesses can build a lasting legacy in the local area and in return a charity receives attention, gains access to the company’s greater resources and grows a wider pool of potential volunteers. It’s a win-win situation.
Better-supported communities are better places to live, work and do business. If your company is not yet supporting a local charity or two – why not start now?
This article was written by Marcelle Speller, founder of Localgiving and Holiday Rentals. Localgiving runs charity campaign, Grow Your Tenner, which matches public donations with funds from businesses.