10 Ways Small Businesses Can Give Back Without Breaking the Bank Helping improve your community or bolster a cause you believe in is probably the most satisfying way there is to market your business.

By John Rampton

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Social responsibility benefits businesses of all sizes but it is essential when you're an SMB closely tied to the community. Giving back helps attract new customers and employees while makes business owners happier and healthier. Giving back introduces networking opportunities.

Giving back to the community can supercharge your marketing by building your brand's recognition and reputation. Studies have found that 85 percent of consumers will switch from one brand to another associated with a cause the favor, with 91 percent of millennials willing to switch. Two-thirds of millennials and 53 percent of the general population use social media to engage around corporate social responsibility.

Here's the problem when you're a small business owner. You're on a tight budget and may not have the funds to be as philpantorhtic as you would like.

Thankfully, there are ways that you give back without breaking the bank, such as these 10 ways.

1. Make a plan

As with every other aspect of your business, it's almost impossible to achieve a goal if you don't plan for it. Every quarter, take the time to sit down with yourself or your team and discuss the various ways that your business can make the world a better place and then make a plan.

For example, a team member may suggest switching from a paper-based invoicing system to a digital system. Not only is it better for the environment, it can save your business a ton of money since it's eliminating the cost of paper and ink. That extra cash could be contributed to a charity.

Related: Deepak Chopra Has 3 Simple and Surprising Productivity Secrets for You

2. Encourage your team to volunteer.

Here's an idea that you can borrow from some of the biggest companies in the world; encourage volunteerism by offering paid time off for volunteering for a charity of their choice.

Giving employees a specific amount of time each month, quarter, or year for volunteer work will improve morale. It will also increase your business's community involvement.

You can also volunteer as a team for organizations like Habitat For Humanity. This action increases team building within your organization. Most house's are built on weekends so that your work week isn't too disrupted.

According to Rajeev Prasad, founder of PayBee - a mobile donation platform for non profits, encouraging employees to volunteer for causes they care about, works great in enhancing employee happiness. It helps in recruiting and retaining talent.

3. Buy from neighboring SMBs.

One of the most effective, and easiest, ways to give back to the community is promoting other local businesses. Buy locally as much as possible, leave reviews, link to your favorite local companies on your website and participate in Small Business Saturday.

Also look for beneficial cross-promotions good for your business and your partners.

Related: 21 Simple Ideas for a Successful Small Business Saturday

4. Share your skills and experience.

As a business owner in your community, you possess a wealth of valuable talent, expertise and knowledge. Put those skills to good use by teaching classes or a specialized skill. Help local residents by volunteering for a nonprofit. For example, if you're a website designer, you could build and maintain the website for a local nonprofit.

I personally use my skills while working with the Open to Hope foundation on a daily basis.

5. Sponsor a youth sports team.

There's a good possibility that you know someone who has a child on a youth sports team. Once you find a local team to sponsor, you can help them out with the funds that they need.

You can get some friendly publicity with your logo on the uniforms or banners. It's a simple and effective way to support your community with a minimal time and financial investment.

6. Sponsor an event.

Sponsoring a participant in a local marathon is a great way to support them, along with the community.

But you and your employees can take it step further. Show-up and cheer someone on -- maybe in some branded gear. Donate supplies to the cause like bottles or water, snacks, or tents.

Related: 5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Enhance Local Communities

7. Launch a charity drive.

If money and scheduled time are in short supply, you can still be charitable by starting a clothing, book, or food drive. Start by donating the items a local nonprofit. Homeless shelters and food banks always need help and supplies.

Helping local drives for charity can be an extremely cost effective option. You can help in small ways throughout the year. Your employees may have some great ideas for you.

Consider such options as a coat drive in the fall or a fan and air conditioner drive in the summer.

8. Put a collection jar on the counter.

This is arguably the way to give back that requires the least effort. Select a charity that is important to you or your team and simply set up a collection jar in the more high-traffic areas of your business.

9. Make giving back part of your referral program.

Believe it or not, you can partner with a nonprofit as a part of a referral program.

For example, maybe you and your team are volunteering at a local animal shelter. Wear matching t-shirts that say something like, "recommend us and we'll donate $100 to the animal shelter in your name."

10. Consistently give a little.

You don't have to make a massive million dollar donation to a charity to make a difference. Donating a small percentage of your profits or fees to a charity that's important to you will add-up over time. It will definitely make a difference.

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

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