25 Ways to Support Causes Through Your Business
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Supporting charities and social causes through your business is not only a kind thing to do, it’s also good for business. There are endless ways to support social causes through business and the following outlines twenty-five such strategies:
1. Donate a percentage of your sales or profits to charity – calculating the amount you donate based on the value of your sales or profits for any given transaction or time period.
2. Make ad-hoc financial donations – choosing the value and frequency of donations, as and when you want to make them.
3. Make regular financial donations – donating regular fixed amounts.
4. Donate a product for every product sold – this is the model used by Toms Shoes where one pair of shoes is donated for every pair of shoes sold. You could donate the same type of product, as Toms Shoes do, or you could donate a completely different product.
5. Donate resources for every product sold – here you make a donation of something needed by those you want to help (for example a mosquito net, food to feed a child for a month, or to pay for a child’s education) every time a specifc product/ service is sold.
6. Donate unsold stock – rather than sitting on old stock or throwing it out, nd a cause who would really appreciate it. For example, I know of a retailer in the UK who donated unsold toys to a local hospital for sick children.
7. Invite buyers to make a donation when making a purchase – at its simplest this may be a charity box at the checkout into which customers can put their spare change (or more). Or you might add an optional donation to your checkout process where customers can add a donation to their purchase while paying; just as they would add a tip.
8. Buy social – one of the easiest ways to have social impact through your business is to buy from ‘social’ suppliers. In the course of business, there are many times when we buy products or services from others. But have you ever considered buying these from social enterprises or charities? If not, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to have more positive social impact, at no extra cost. Buying social could even save you money.
9. Social outsourcing or hiring – similar to social sourcing, this is where you employ or contract individuals who have experienced personal challenges (such as poverty, abuse, neglect, war, trauma or life-threatening injury or illness). In other words, having a conscious intention to help those who find it hard to get well-paid jobs, and working out how you can help each other – with you giving them opportunities to work and them providing you with the skills you need. Many social enterprises are set up to employ people who have experienced hardship but you don’t need to be a social business to do this. Commercial businesses can also add a social element to their recruitment (as long as you also pay attention to any relevant legislation you have in your country or state in relation to equal opportunities). Let’s help more people out of poverty!
10. Fundraising–this could be fundraising events, charitable sales promotions, or point of sale collections, at your place of work or incorporated into other business activities.
Organising fundraising events has become one of my favourite marketing strategies because fundraising events can be a great way to showcase your expertise, give people a good experience, and raise funds for charity, all at the same time. When you come up with fundraising events your ideal clients and highly attractive, these can fit in really well with other business activities and help you connect better your followers or community. They can also help you expand the reach and effectiveness of other marketing strategies such as social media or joint venture partnerships. Please note in many countries there is legislation and regulations that govern raising funds for charity through a business (commonly known as ‘cause marketing’). See Chapter 5 of my Give-to-Profit book for further information about this.
11. Secure funding to provide products or services to social causes – and yes, supporting social causes includes earning money from them where appropriate too. Charities and social enterprises pay for products and services in the same way other consumers do. If they are part of your target market, you’re hopefully already charging them.
It’s worth exploring whether there is any local or national funding to cover the cost of what you provide. Funding that either you or the social cause could apply for. For example, I sit on the board of a social enterprise that helps young people lead happier healthy lives through teaching basic life skills. Some of our projects are delivered through schools who themselves seek the funding from other sources. I’ve also been paid to deliver training to charities and social enterprises that obtained funding to pay for this. While there are many foundations that provide funding for social causes, there are also many causes ‘competing’ for these pots of money. A helpful perspective to have is that trustees of charitable foundations are tasked with finding good causes to allocate their funds to – your project could be the perfect fit. Someone gets the money, why not your project? I have a friend who runs a pro table business and is a great supporter of social causes both personally and through her business. She raises funds for charity, volunteers her time and is also exploring how she can provide services within prisons – on a paid (funded) basis. It’s your business and so you can work out your own perfect mix of paid work versus volunteering. To explore funding sources I suggest you do an Internet search and ask the causes you’d like to support whether they know of any relevant funding providers. It’s also worth speaking to those who are already serving this audience.
12. Share your time on a voluntary basis – you could offer the specialist skills you provide commercially through your business, or completely different skills that others need and would be grateful to receive.
For instance, I remember when I first started out in business my primary aim was to earn enough money to live on as a coach and therapist. However, one of the things I’m really good at is strategic thinking and business management of larger enterprises. Early on I found my small business didn’t give me the scope to use my brain in this way. That was one of the reasons I decided to become a trustee of a charity. The charity needed people who could help develop their business strategies and I wanted to continue to do that kind of work.
However, you can obviously also volunteer your time and help others in ways other than sharing your specialist skills or knowledge. You could instead approach social causes and do whatever they need help with such as serving refreshments at a homeless shelter, hospice or at community events.
How does volunteering help grow your business? One of the main bene ts is that you’ll grow your network. I’ve found that when you work with people on a common cause or mission, these connections often nourish into some of the best relationships we make – both personally, and for our business. Depending on what you do, you could develop new skills or get personal needs met that you’re not getting met through your business, for example, social interaction if you run a home-based business. Volunteering can also be a great way to boost your emotional well-being, self-esteem, and confidence.
How much time you donate is up to you. You can commit to a project for an agreed time, help others on an ad-hoc basis or join the micro-volunteering movement – people doing good in short bursts of time from only ten minutes at a time. Micro-volunteering is something you can do from home without even getting dressed!
There are details of a couple of organisations you can use to nd volunteering opportunities on my website at www. givetoprofit.com. And of course, it’s also worth connecting with social causes in your local community as well as doing your own Internet search.
13. Support others’ charitable events – there are many people organising charitable events which you could support such as by donating gifts for raffles or auctions, raising funds, helping out, sponsoring the event or taking a table, or promoting it the event itself.
14. Become an ambassador or advocate for a cause – telling others about a cause’s work and how they can help. Recently someone at one of my networking events mentioned a charity she was doing some work for who were looking for smart clothing to be donated to attendees of one of their programmes, one that helps women into the workplace including equipping them with clothes to wear to interviews and their new jobs.
15. Give personal introductions – an easy act of kindness that could transform the fortune of social causes is to introduce them to people in your personal or business network. So when you meet people from charities and social causes, ask them what they need or who they’d like to be introduced to, be it funders, suppliers, business partners, agents or celebrities. Then take the time to review your business contacts to see if there is anyone you could introduce them to. Connecting people to one another is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
16. Give social causes access to business resources – when you provide resources to social causes you are helping them save money. Examples of resources you could offer include physical space, equipment, people (in terms of hours or skills) or technology. If you employ staff or work collaboratively with others, think of ways you do this as a team building or staff engagement activity.
17. Sponsor a specific person who needs support – perhaps paying for a young child to attend school (with or without uniform and materials) or for a young person to complete higher education (with or without their living costs). This is a really easy and measurable way to have social impact through your business, especially if you go through a registered charity that has already worked out the costs and logistics of converting donations into the form of support needed by the beneficiaries.
18. Sponsoring charitable projects – in a similar way to sponsoring a person, you could sponsor a charitable project, by covering the costs or providing resources. Again, fully or in part. I recently ran an online training event with the specific intention of raising enough money to build a home for a family in Malawi. Attendees made financial donations to attend; I delivered the training and forwarded the funds to the young people building the house. Four weeks later a widow and her disabled toddler moved into their new home – thanks to the generosity of my business community.
19. Sponsoring events – there are many ways to sponsor events such as taking a stand or table, advertising in a programme, offering samples, tasters or other resources (for example donating raffle prizes or gifts for goodie bags). You could sponsor a whole event or just part of it.
20. Sponsoring the purchase of specific resources – charitable causes often ask people and businesses to donate particular items needed by those they help, e.g. tents, mosquito nets, football strips, computers, vaccinations, books, educational costs, etc.I’m involved in a social enterprise called Lead a Bright Future where we sell products to help prevent bullying in schools and communities. One of the things we invite our supporters to do is to buy a Buddy Bear Friend Backpack (full of resources to tackle bullying) that we can give to schools that are committed to helping young children feel better about themselves, and support others in their school.By sponsoring the purchase of specific resources you’re effectively donating what’s needed, without needing to worry about buying and distributing the goods yourself.
21. Pay-it-Forward Campaigns – if you’ve seen the lm or read the book Pay-it-Forward you’ll know what this is about. If this is the first time you’ve heard the phrase, the book and lm are worth checking out! Pay-it-forward is about being kind or generous to someone without any expectation of payment, and with the request that the beneficiary ‘pays’ by doing something kind for someone else.
22. Selectively offer your products and services for free – have a policy for scholarships, pro-bono work for those who can’t afford to pay for your services. Or create give-away events. I was inspired to see a local sandwich shop open its doors on Christmas Day to serve free meals to the homeless.
23. Collaborate with social causes – collaboration is a powerful way to grow most businesses. Rather than only partnering with other businesses, how about considering how you could also collaborate with social causes?
24. Social lending – lending money to social causes, either directly or through firms set up to facilitate this. Rather than donating funds, an arrangement is put in place for the cause to pay you back the money. There are many micro- nance schemes that enable you to do this with social causes around the world.
25. Social investment – similar to social lending in that the intention is that you can get your money back but rather than lending the cause the money, you own a share of the cause or social enterprise.
There are many ways you can support charities and social causes, with various levels of commitment in terms of time, money and resources.
You don’t have to wait until you’ve generated money or pro ts to do this – there are ways to put charitable giving at the heart of your business that could have an immediate social impact, save money and grow your business.
The best strategies for you depend on why supporting social causes is important to you, the resources you have available and the difference you’d like to make in the world.
Social Impact Actions
Which of the ways I’ve suggested above appeal to you most?
What other ideas do you have?
What would help you implement your ideas?
I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts – please do share your comments in the Contact Box.