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Six reasons to use your small business for good

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People used to believe that doing good and good business (read: profit) were incompatible. But the world has changed in the last 18 months, and the pandemic has altered social norms. Now, there’s a wide recognition that doing good makes your business more relevant and desirable to both employees and customers.

The exciting news for small businesses is that they can respond to these shifting expectations easier, faster, and more efficiently than their larger counterparts because they’re more agile. Here’s why doing good for your small business means doing good for your community. We also offer ideas about how to go about it.

Doing good in times of COVID-19

An article in the 9 July edition of the Randburg Sun speaks of an inspiring young man from Blackheath. Tshepang Mokoena used his passion for photography to shine a light on the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa. He self-published a photobook (with the help of the NGO Growing Champions) that reflected the scars of GBV in his community. He then used the proceeds from selling the books to buy school uniforms for local learners.

This is a perfect example of how you don’t need lots of cash to make a difference – you can use whatever you’re good at to find creative ways to give back.

The impact of the pandemic shows in the latest global trends in corporate giving. Supporting small businesses and virtual volunteering are now at the forefront of many corporate social responsibility undertakings.

This means giving your time by volunteering in the community, teaching or consulting online, or offering your services remotely by helping charities and NGOs with business management solutions, marketing, accounting, or legal expertise.

Another great option is to get involved with Mandela Month, annually in July. The “each one feed one” campaign is all about tackling food insecurity in the wake of the national lockdown and, more recently, civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Donations go towards a food distribution service that supports and feeds needy families for at least three months.

There are also many creative ideas – that don’t break lockdown regulations – on how to give back here. These include:

  • Offering to do some gardening at a nearby nursing home,
  • Planting a tree in your neighbourhood for all to enjoy,
  • Sharing your research about a social issue or an NGO you care about on social media,
  • Learning first aid,
  • Donating blood, and/or
  • Knitting blankets for the homeless amidst many.

Here are six good reasons to give back:

1.    Customer loyalty

COVID has had a devastating impact on society, but disproportionately so for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. The imperative to do good is more vital than ever and consumers feel the same way. Research suggests that consumers choose to buy from brands they deem to be more socially responsible.

In South Africa, 76% of consumers think it’s become more important for businesses and brands to do more for the environment, while 45% will give more value to brands that act in a responsible, transparent and honest way. The bottom line is that people like to feel good about what they buy and care about who they support in the process.

2.    Happier employees

Helping others is inspiring and it creates a buzz known as “helper’s high”. People who feel like their work has meaning tend to work harder, are more collaborative, more fulfilled, and have a deeper connection with and pride in their jobs. Charitable giving leads to higher employee satisfaction, which leads to better commitment to company goals and values.

Sage Foundation, People Powering Change research, shows that 48% of South African employees cite their employer’s commitment to corporate philanthropy as a major driver for working for the organisation, rising to 54% among employees aged below 45. Worldwide, 76% of employees agree that a commitment to social philanthropy makes their organisation a more attractive place to work.

Exposing people to different challenges, leadership and learning opportunities in their community will ultimately mean a more committed, sophisticated, and well-rounded workforce.

3.    Attract the best talent

When your employees are happy and fulfilled, it’s easier to attract great talent when you need it.

PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests that people overwhelmingly prefer to work for a company that shares their values and principles. When you’re known for doing good, you don’t need to spend much time or money convincing the best talent about why they should work with you. Chances are, they’re already knocking on your door.

4.    Value reinforcement

The key to extracting the most value out of giving back is to use your mission statement to inform how you choose to do good. Actions speak louder than words, so select a cause that resonates with your values and mission that will reinforce your brand and amplify your legitimacy at the same time.

For example, if you own a beauty salon, your therapists could volunteer monthly at a local hospice to make patients feel pampered and special.

5.    Reputation boost

Inasmuch as doing good should never be a pure PR exercise, it naturally attracts positive attention when it’s done with sincerity and care. People love a happy story they can talk about and share.

Doing good is also a great networking opportunity because you interact with people who want to be involved with similar issues and causes.

Tip: Share your efforts on social media and your website, encouraging your followers to get involved while also letting your actions speak for themselves.

6.    Save money

It turns out that all the above reasons to do good can also be good for the books.

For example:

  • Green initiatives often save money on resources through reuse and recycling,
  • A happier workforce is more productive and loyal, meaning you spend less time and money on recruitment and training, and
  • Good deeds attract publicity, saving on marketing budget and attracting loyal customers.

The ultimate goal is to make your community better. In boosting your local economy and building genuine relationships with people in your community, you help create a more prosperous environment, supporting you in return.

The COVID pandemic has highlighted some of the most severe aspects of social inequality in our country and has deepened the worst economic downturn in almost 100 years. In response, people demand more from each other and the companies they work for. They insist on authenticity and open communication about what businesses stand for and how they plan to take care of more than just their bottom lines.

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