Guest Blog Post by Martha Londagin of Startup Junkie Foundation
Mother Teresa called the world to volunteerism stating, “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money.” The act of serving others is powerful not only for individuals but also for any successful business enterprise, small or large. As a 6th generation Northwest Arkansas small business owner, I was taught by my family that if we make a living from our town, we have a responsibility to give back. Below are three reasons why I encourage all entrepreneurs, small business owners, corporate employees, and individuals to volunteer in their communities:
1. Volunteerism presents a real personality to the public for your business and yourself beyond branding.
If you as a business owner sometimes complain about customers “buying online” or at “chain stores” are those same customers witnessing you or your employees out building their community? Customers may not mind paying a small amount more for your products or services if you SHOW them how those extra dollars support their town. Further, the types of non-profit groups your business chooses to support tell “a story” about what your company values, i.e. if you send employees during paid work hours to serve at a homeless shelter, you show that you have a heart for those down on their luck, those who can often contribute more to a community if provided proper resources and hope. If you personally serve with a local habitat or home improvement group, you show that you have a respect for those earning lower wages and their families, or perhaps the elderly or veterans who served their employers or country for many years but now need some assistance. If you sponsor or volunteer for local entrepreneur educational events, then you show that you care about our NWA entrepreneur eco-system; you aren’t just out to gain another accounting, marketing, or legal client. Volunteerism is especially vital for those businesses and people “new” to NWA to help you build “a story” and “history” here.
2. Workplace volunteerism programs build employee retention.
Attracting and RETAINING employee talent is a huge challenge in NWA due to our robust economy. So, ask your employees what local non-profit groups or needs in the community they want to serve. Allowing them to be part of the volunteerism plan for your business empowers them, makes them feel valued, and increases their desire to come to work. This may in turn cause them think twice about that job offer to make a few more dollars an hour elsewhere because they are proud of the culture they have helped build at your business. Studies evidence that employees don’t leave jobs- they leave managers whom they don’t feel value them, and companies they don’t believe have a purpose. Millennial workers especially look to work for companies that support social causes-this generation is looking for life experiences, not just a paycheck.
3. Volunteerism opportunities provide very low-cost marketing opportunities.
I admit that I am a person who is very passionate about volunteering in my community. I absolutely thrive on these experiences and seek them. However, if this is not your natural practice, then know that from a revenue analysis aspect I have frequently witnessed small businesses and individuals grow their business exposure, gain massive marketing opportunities, and earn excellent reputations due to their volunteerism efforts. Local non-profits in our region often have huge numbers of social media followers, and our local media often kindly and freely promote non-profit events with photos posted of business teams serving there. This exposure increases your branding message to the public. Serving side-by-side with other business owners and corporate managers you might never have otherwise can also provide incredible opportunities.
Consider having a specific, team-driven, volunteerism program at your small business or company or institute one personally as part of your career path. “Givers get” I have often heard from those I have seen who consistently and passionately practice volunteerism in NWA. Regardless, increasing awareness of your business or your personal skills, empowering your team, and expanding your reach in NWA can only improve your business and our communities. Get busy, give back, and get out there!