When I was a junior in college, I was chosen to lead my fraternity’s philanthropic project. What I did not realize at the time was that it would be my first venture in working with small businesses. In many ways, it was a hard-nosed lesson about the realities of trying to solicit small business owners, but the experience was also rewarding. My intentions were pure, and we were contributing to the Children’s Miracle Network via Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Since I had seen lots of places that would have balloons at the checkout corners where customers would write their names down and post them up in exchange for a nominal donation, I thought, “Hey, this should be easy.” For a variety of different reasons, it was not. In the end, we ended up finding a number of organizations to assist us in collection donations and who would allow us to plaster CMN balloons all over their store windows. We also found a few businesses to sponsor our T-Shirts that we sold on campus. Ultimately, we exceeded our donation goals for the project and more than doubled our previous year’s totals in the money we raised for Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. I think back to this experience as my first ever advertising sales job, but it also taught me another valuable lesson; business owners genuinely care about their communities and are willing to help out a variety of causes that align with their own values.
Over the years, I have seen the substantial impact small businesses have in our communities. They provide valuable services to improve the lives of their customers as well as economic opportunities for their employees. But there is often a much-overlooked impact that small businesses make: they are local philanthropists. When a school sports team is trying to raise funds to attend a tournament or purchase new uniforms, it’s often donations from small businesses that help to pick up the tab after the parents are tapped out. When a local shelter is seeking funds for a new facility to house homeless people or animals, small businesses often get the calls requesting donations. And when the health-focused organizations like the March of Dimes or American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life need new partners for fundraising, again, it’s the small businesses who field those calls and support those organizations.
Whether giving direct cash contributions, donating services in-kind, or simply volunteering their time and talents, many non-profit organizations would be sunk without the charitable donations made by small businesses. Indeed, studies have shown nine out of 10 small businesses donate to at least one organization throughout the year. Businesses are givers; not just for tax purposes or for community engagement, or even to try to generate additional business. In fact, a recent study from the National Federation of Independent Business found that the primary motivation for businesses to contribute to charity is that it gives them personal satisfaction and fulfillment. Additionally, a Harvard Business Study found that contributing even $5 to others can have an impact on a person’s happiness. Small businesses, their owners and employees, have set forth countless examples of giving, volunteering, and overall good citizenship. Follow their example, and the next time you get a chance to donate a dollar to help a child with leukemia, homeless pets, or another worthy cause, go ahead and say “Yes.” It just might leave a lasting impact on you, too.
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