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7 Ways SMEs Can Support Their Local Communities

small businesses giving back to the community small business community engagement

With the challenges raised by COVID-19, community involvement is a key to ensuring long-term recovery and cohesion. While large businesses often support high-profile charitable organisations and large scale social responsibility initiatives, small-to-medium enterprises can get involved and give back to their local communities. Here are a few ways for small businesses to give back to their communities. Many don’t require spending money, so they’re an option if you don’t have extra funds budgeted.

1. Volunteer in the local community

This is a simple way to give back without breaking your budget. There are many ways for small business owners to get involved with volunteering. It could involve spending time to help a local charity that has volunteering opportunities on a regular or occasional basis. 

One example is Clean Up Australia which has an annual clean up day where volunteers remove rubbish from streets, parks and other public areas. Businesses can also run their own cleanup events through Clean Up Australia to get employees involved. 

Consider employee volunteering opportunities based on individual preferences. Ask staff members how they feel about volunteering and the types of activities they would like to engage in. This information can help you choose volunteer activities the boost employee engagement. Volunteering opportunities come in many forms (from assisting a homeless shelter to staffing a local food bank), so it will help to know what employees are interested in. 

If staff members are interested in volunteering independently to support a group or cause, offer flexible working hours, if possible, or time off if the activity is during business hours.

2. Sponsor a local sports team

This is a popular activity for small business community engagement. The options available for sponsorship usually range from a very small to a substantial investment. Besides helping an important organization that benefits community members, you will get the opportunity to meet more community members and connect with other local businesses.

3. Support local schools

You can help your local community by offering financial or volunteer support to local schools. This could be offering a prize for a fundraising raffle or donating the products you sell for school use if relevant. There also could be opportunities to teach students about your business and industry.

4. Open your doors to work experience.

Another way to help and boost community engagement for your business is to host work experience students. Many high schools and vocational schools have work experience programs where students spend a week or more in the business to gain work experience. Creating an opportunity for a student helps you give back to the community and assist a young person to get a better understanding of work and career opportunities.

5. Promote other local businesses

Assisting other businesses is another way to give back to your local community. One way to do this is to cross-promote complementary businesses in your area. For example, an accountant, financial planner and insurance broker can help each other by promoting each others business. The same applies to trade services or other businesses that are in related industries. Learn more about cross-promotion marketing

6. Offer classes or workshops

Most business owners and managers have knowledge they can share that can benefit community members. Examples include a financial planner teaching a financial literacy workshop or a builder teaching about home renovation pitfalls and how to avoid them. Whatever the subject, some community members will benefit from the information. Following on from the cross-promotion idea, several complementary businesses could get together to offer a comprehensive workshop for the local community.

7. Join or start a local traders association

This mostly applies to shopfront retail and hospitality businesses located in the same area. These groups support the community by helping each other in overcoming challenges and working together on projects. For example, a local trader group can raise issues with the local council that need to be addressed. The group can also organise special events to bring community members together. 

Putting community engagement into action

The first step to start your business volunteering in the community is to find out what opportunities exist. Check social media for local organisations that might need assistance and see how you can help. Also, it’s best to start small and keep it simple. Your community engagement strategies don’t need to be an elaborate initiative like a corporate volunteering program for a large business. You can simply lend a hand in small and meaningful ways that don’t necessarily involve spending money. 

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