By Rieva Lesonsky
Whether you’re pitching new clients, dealing with vendors or applying for a small business loan, you might not think your image as a socially responsible and socially conscious business means anything. If so, you don’t have your finger on the pulse of who Americans want to do business with. In Edelman’s most recent Goodpurpose survey, 87 percent of U.S. respondents agreed that “business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests” as it does on its own interests. And if you’re trying to reach Millennial customers (ages 18-34), Cone agency found that 85 percent of respondents would switch brands to a company that showed good intentions regarding social and green issues.
Being environmentally friendly isn’t the only way your business can be socially responsible. Think about donating a percentage of your profits to support a cause such as autism or cancer research. Or if you’re a retailer, consider carrying a line of goods made by a disadvantaged group (such as tribal women trying to better their future). Being active in your community and supporting local causes also reinforces your image as a socially responsible business.
Choose a cause that’s relevant for your business. For instance, if you run a restaurant, your business could offer food to a homeless shelter. Or if you own a pet supply store, your cause could be donating to a nonprofit that helps abused and abandoned pets. Everyone is interested in entrepreneurship these days—even kids. If they’re your market, consider holding a contest (make sure you check out all the legalities) providing the seed capital for a kids business. It doesn’t have to cost much—you can provide a $500 prize. Do your employees have a special cause that’s close to their hearts? You can offer to match employee donations or sponsor an employee’s cause. Finally, find out what your customers feel passionate about and make sure they know you feel the same way.
Remember, no one will know you are socially conscious without you telling them so. You don’t have to be arrogant about it, but make sure you talk about your cause in your small business marketing materials, on your website, your Facebook fan page and your Twitter page. The more ways you offer for your customers to get involved with your cause, both online and offline, the better.
If you’re not sure the charity you’ve chosen is legitimate, check out CharityNavigator.org which evaluates ad rates the financial health of over 5,500 national charities. The site also features top 10 lists such as “10 Most Requested Charities” and “10 Charities Worth Watching.” Charities are rated based on such factors as program expenses, administrative expenses, fundraising expenses and fundraising efficiency.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports