6 Creative and Simple Small Business Charity Ideas

By Alex Perdikis

Yes, you’re a small-business owner. But first, you’re a human being who lives and works in a community. You may be raising kids, you have your own hobbies and interests and, although it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, you have a life outside of work. Improving the lives of those in your community and giving back are important to you. Small businesses everywhere provide valuable support to charitable organizations and local causes. If you’ve been thinking about some type of charitable program for your small business, consider these six ideas and get started.

  1. Simple but Effective: Collect Donations

There are a couple of ways you can collect for local charities. One is by collecting money—as customers check out, ask if they’d like to donate to the cause you’ve partnered with. Another option is to collect items. Perhaps the local food bank or homeless shelter needs nonperishable food or clothing items; place a bin for donations next to the exit. To further encourage donations, offer a discount to anyone who donates. Make it easy for your customers to give.

  1. Donate Your Service or Product to a Charity Auction

Auctions, particularly silent auctions, are frequently used by charities to raise money. When you donate a product or service, everyone who attends the auction hears about your company and learns about what you do. It’s a win-win.

  1. Tried and True: Sponsor an Event

Sponsoring a charity event takes a bit more work than collecting donations, but it’s a great way to give back and get to know your local community better. Not only that—you’ll also gain plenty of exposure and goodwill. The list of events you can sponsor is endless, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Sponsor a community 5K race
  • Sponsor a golf or bowling tournament
  • Have a bake sale
  • Plan a charity breakfast or dinner

If sponsoring an event on your own is too much, co-sponsor with another small business. You’ll both benefit.

  1. Dedicate Donations Based on Sales

There are two easy ways to do make dedicated donations based on sales. If you’re in the retail or food business, choose a day or a specific time period to donate 10 percent of each customer purchase to the cause. You don’t charge higher prices; you simply donate a percentage of all sales during that period. Customers love the fact that a portion of their purchases goes to a worthy cause. You may find that, as word spreads, you end up with more customers during your donation periods than at any other time.

Another way to donate based on sales is to offer matching donations during a specific time period. Matching donations are typically conducted within short time frames. Employees and customers are invited to donate money to a specific charity and you promise to match the donation. Set a budget beforehand, and be clear about the fact that once you reach a specific amount, matching donations cease. (Donors should still be free to make donations, however.)

  1. Sell for the Cause

An inexpensive way to raise funds for charity and spread the word about your business is to create low-cost merchandise that displays both the charity’s name and your company’s name. T-shirts and hats are ideal for this. Donate all the proceeds from sales to your selected charity.

  1. Use an Online Service

If you do any kind of online business, it’s easy to set up a service that handles charitable donations for your company. From adding a charitable donation at checkout to giving customers an easy way to contribute to a variety of pre-selected causes, online services can greatly enhance your giving opportunities.

For example, B1G1, short for Buy One Give One, was founded in 2007 as a way for small-business owners to make a difference. Membership fees cover administrative costs, so 100 percent of contributions go directly to your chosen cause. You can choose to support projects that echo your company’s mission or are of local interest. Many B1G1 projects require only a few cents to make an impact. One cited project example collects just three cents per purchase to provide a playground for children in Cambodia. Other causes include providing water where supplies are short, supporting orphans and feeding the hungry, as well as environmental projects. Before signing up with any online service, check its legitimacy and read reviews.

If you haven’t run a charitable campaign before, start with one of the easier methods, such as collecting donations, and learn from your experience. Giving is addictive—once you start, you won’t be able to stop.