One of the most talked about issues in business today is corporate social responsibility, where a company strives to have a positive effect on the public interest. But CSR isn’t just for large companies. Small businesses have a long and proud tradition of “making a difference,” particularly on the local level.

The benefits of community involvement go beyond simply feeling good because you helped a worthy cause. It raises the profile of your business, creates a positive buzz and opens the door to new networking opportunities. These activities can also reinforce employee morale, fostering a spirit of teamwork and collaboration that will enhance on-the-job performance.

“A good starting point for finding community involvement ideas is the local Chamber of Commerce,” Central Maine SCORE mentor Ralph Tuttle said. “They frequently sponsor events that offer opportunities for advertising or in-kind service donations. And nothing beats the chance to meet and network with fellow small business owners.”

Civic groups and charitable organizations are also great sources of community activities. You could sponsor youth sports teams, 5K races, parade floats, contribute to food drives and roadside cleanups and supply giveaways stamped with your business’ name and logo . . . the possibilities are endless.

These events almost always require volunteers, so why not encourage your employees to pitch in? Many will do so willingly. Supply them with custom T-shirts or hats to reinforce teamwork bonds, and consider offering an incentive such as a few hours off to compensate for their time.

Tuttle adds that school events need sponsors as well as career days, student tutoring and mentoring programs.

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“Look for a direct tie-in to what your business does or the skills you utilize,” he said. “A clothing store might do something related to fashion design, while math and science-related activities would be ideal for an engineering firm.”

Don’t worry if you’re a one-person business. You can still be as much a part of your community as your town’s largest employer. Whatever you do, and there are many ideas, consider issuing a news release about your involvement and mention it on your website.

A great idea for any type of business is to contact SCORE, a nonprofit association offering a wealth of information resources, training and free counseling.

For more information contact Central Maine SCORE at 782-3708 or [email protected], and in Oxford Hills call 743-0499, or contact SCORE online at www.SCOREmaine.org.

This column is provided by the Central Maine SCORE chapter.


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