Small Budget, Big Impact: How small businesses can help without spending a lot of cash.

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One of the advantages of being a small business owner or employee is the opportunity to make a positive impact on your community. This impact is tangible: in a recent Funding Circle survey, more than half of small business owners said that they donate money to charity. But what if, like many small businesses, you don’t have a lot of cash to spare? Here are some other ways you can make an impact on a limited budget.

1. Give time. Even a little bit can be a big help. Local food banks, soup kitchens and animal shelters are often looking for volunteers who can give an evening or a Saturday morning each week or every other week. Barcelona-based charity Esperança provides meals to the homeless on weekends. Many of their volunteers contribute as little as a few dozen hard-boiled eggs or a gallon of home-made soup each week.

2. Give space. Groups like Kiwanis, Rotary and the Lions Club often need space for meetings and functions. Are there times when your business space could play host for free or a reduced rate? Alternatively, hosting a cultural event can provide positive experiences to the community as well as potentially bring in business, like a cafe hosting open-mic nights or a bookstore featuring a talk by a local author.

3. Give knowledge. The skills and knowledge that run your business can help charities and the community, too. Eric Davenport of Leap Architecture volunteers as president of the South End Improvement Corporation in Albany, NY. His experience as an architect helps the organization and local homeowners make good decisions about rehabbing older homes and improving South End Albany neighborhoods. “The best result has been invested interest in people’s well-being, and a sense of empowerment.”

Volunteering for a few hours to answer community questions can be a way to help on a smaller scale. “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers”, well-known to fans of NPR’s CarTalk program, got their start when they volunteered for a one-hour radio panel on car repair – and none of the other mechanics showed up!

4. Give...trucks? Okay, so we’re not talking about donating a Ford F150 here. Many communities now host “Truck Day” each summer, where kids get to explore and ask questions about ambulances, bulldozers, tractors and more. This is a great opportunity for landscape companies, emergency services, farms and more to have fun and connect with their communities.

If kids aren’t your thing, look for a local park that could use a helping hand. Combine your equipment with a few hours of time from your crew to spruce up a local green space.

5. Reduce your rates. Maybe you can’t afford to give away something for free, but could do it for a reduced rate, or using barter-and-trade. Graphic designer Jen Owens often uses this approach with her local clients. “My favorite hole-in-the-wall bar in town can’t afford the same rates that I charge corporations. I offer them a “community” rate, and often just trade a meal for helping them out with some edits or a small design job.” Making an impact can be as much about working together as it is about traditional charity.

6. Be neighborly. In Boston’s historic North End, some of the local shopkeepers still sweep their sidewalks and streets every morning without fail. Small, daily details like this can have a big impact on the customer and community experience.

7. Get creative. What other ways can you think of to help? Consider:

  • What skills do you have to offer: Painting? Cooking? Construction?
  • How much time you can give: An hour? A day? Every other Wednesday?
  • What causes are dear to you: Animals? Kids? Hunger?

And a simple, unique idea may come to you. How about painting a mural at the local children’s hospital, or helping the animal shelter build a new dog run? Ask a friend or your employees to help brainstorm ways to contribute that are customized and meaningful to you and your business.

These are a few of many ways that your small business can make a positive impact in your community without having a lot of cash to give. Keep in mind, that your non-cash business contributions may still be tax deductible. Check out resources like this to learn more. And if your business is making a unique impact, share it with us!

Email and we may feature your story in the future.

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