Written by Laura-Jean Bernhardson, CEO and Founder of Fresh Collective
Small business owners are well aware they face a lot of challenges in standing out from the competition.
Everyone is looking to spread awareness of their business and gain new customers.
So how can working a social or humanitarian cause into your business help you do this?
And just how do you do it while helping the bottom line at the same time?
Since fall of 2015, I’ve been involved in the Syrian refugee cause here in Toronto, starting with sponsoring a family and collecting clothing at one of my stores for what was intended to be a small clothing drive to prepare for their arrival.
Since then, I’ve taken on fundraising for a Syrian mother and her family (we reached the goal and are now waiting for paperwork to process) and now another Syrian family by sharing the project with my business audience and my personal network.
Several other small businesspeople have jumped on board, and we’ve seen the results.
Beyond helping people in need, which is awesome, it’s created benefits for our businesses.
We’ve started a Facebook group, The Do-Gooders, offering peer support, coaching and networking for any small business people who want to add a cause into their business.
You can choose any cause for your business to join the Facebook group and get support in making it work, but if you want to join in this ready-made cause, we’d love to have you join us as a $1000 fundraiser for Nour and her family.
Here are just some of the benefits we’ve seen in taking on a cause in your small business.
Taking on a cause in your business gives you a chance to show your customers, and potential new customers where your heart and your company’s core values are.
These days, many savvy customers want to buy where they feel people care and they’re doing more than just buying *things*. Offering them a chance to support the cause you’ve taken on allows them to feel good about their consumer choices.
Mass media is interested in “something different”.
Oonagh Duncan, a Toronto fitness expert who runs bootcamps and programs for fitness, shared her fundraising campaign on Facebook and it was just picked up by a Toronto Star reporter for an incredible full page article on the front of the Life Section.
Joining a fundraising project (like ours) is an incredible way to increase your professional network.
In the last year, I’ve worked alongside hundreds of amazing new people from various communities that I would never have come in contact with if I had stayed in my normal routine. Those wonderful people have all become part of my personal and professional network.
Some tips on how to do it:
Choose a cause that makes sense for your business.
Chances are if it’s a cause close to your heart and your business is close to your heart, it’s automatically a good fit.
Share from your heart.
Tell people why this is an important cause, and why it moved you to help.
Prepare to take a stand.
If your cause is in any way controversial, you may face some critics. In my case, some people are against refugees coming to Canada. I have to be OK with differing opinions about that. Given the culture of my business, I think that most customers and potential customers will be inspired by fundraising to help people in need, not turned off.
Be prepared to “work it”.
We had to keep on sharing the project from different angles, inviting people to come on board. With the Nour fundraiser, we tried a structure that just didn’t work and we had to come up with a new idea.
Be specific about what you’re asking.
Create a structure that makes it easy for people to say “yes”. For us, we decided to break down the $23,000 we need to raise for Nour by asking 23 people to join us as $1000 fundraisers in their community. We were clear about looking for team members, and this gave people something tangible to say “yes” to.
Use the project to get exposure to new audiences or to launch a new product.
It’s fine if you operate business as usual and donate a portion of sales to the cause, but really that comes out of your bottom line. Don’t miss the opportunity to share this campaign with new audiences and invite them out to support the cause while supporting your business, of course. Donate the proceeds of a new product or service for a limited time. Have a day where all or a portion of profits are donated. There are a million ways to create a win/win, and we can help you come up with those in our Facebook Group, the Do-Gooders.
Don’t be shy, and don’t be discouraged.
Like anything in business, we found that this takes work and teamwork to produce results. Joining a community like ours will help you think of that fresh idea or that new angle that can push your campaign to the goal.