Do you want to increase your brand awareness by through CSR activities but you lack ideas? If YES, here are 50 best philanthropic ideas for small businesses. Corporate social responsibility is a commitment to do more than just serve the needs and expectations of customers and shareholders. It can also mean going beyond business basics and serving a social need.

The concept of CSR is heightened by the idea that businesses and corporations can no longer act as isolated economic entities that operate in detachment from the broader society where they exist.

A lot of consumers today are prioritizing corporate social responsibility (CSR), and holding corporations accountable for effecting social change with their business beliefs, practices and profits. In fact, some will even turn their back on their favorite companies if they believe they’re not taking a stand for societal and environmental issues.

Corporate social responsibility programs can help build bonds, strengthen communication skills and boost morale while making a positive difference in the lives of people who need it most.

Till date, it has been discovered that business owners can be some of the most philanthropic people on the planet. The IRS estimates business owners give to five or more charities, which translates to them being about 10 times more generous than the general population. In fact, 83% of high net worth business owners actually plan to increase their giving in the next three years as well.

Social responsibility benefits businesses of all sizes but it is essential when your small business is 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.

As a small business, your business might not have the cash flow to support an entire museum expansion, or something of the like, but you can still take advantage of smaller sponsorship opportunities in your area. From sports teams to theater clubs to youth choirs, local groups are often looking for businesses to pay for some of their costs in exchange for branded uniforms or program ads. You’ll get a little extra exposure, and local programs will get the support they need.

How Corporate Social Responsibility Can Benefits your Small Business

a. It makes customers loyal

People generally feel good when they know that a part of their purchase is going to be used for a good cause. A business would likely get loyal customers just because that have an active CSR program in place. An industry brief released by Loyalty360, a customer loyalty think tank, found that social responsibility initiatives can go a long way toward creating emotional bonds with customers, which leads to greater brand loyalty.

b. It brings more sales

A 2014 survey conducted by Nielsen found that 55% of global online customers say they’re willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to making a positive social and environmental impact. This goes to show that customers shop more with brands that give back to the community.

Developing a social responsibility program for your business might require some funding on your end, but there is a good chance your customers won’t blink an eye, as long as you explain why prices are going up.

c. Fosters a More Committed Workforce

Another benefit to increasing your social consciousness is that recruiting becomes much easier. People want to work for companies that care for other things besides a tidy profit and a bottom line. If you build a reputation around social responsibility, you’ll find that high-quality resumes pour in when you have an opening.

Additionally, the employees you do hire will be more productive, and work longer, if they feel that their efforts are contributing to a greater good. The 2016 Workforce Purpose Index, a global study on the role of purpose in the workforce, found that employees who worked with purpose had a 20% longer tenure in their role, and were 47% more likely to speak positively about their employer. In short, doing good helps boost employee engagement and raise productivity, both of which are positives for your business.

d. Greater competitive advantage

A study published in the Journal of Business Research found that financial performance and competitive advantage were greater in firms that focused more on social responsibility.

You might also find it easier to secure venture capital funding if social responsibility is part of your business plan. This because investors know that customers care about social responsibility, which gives your business a greater chance of survival.

50 Best Philanthropic (CSR) ideas for Small Businesses

  1. Sponsor a Fundraiser

Many community organizations hold fundraisers, from school sports teams to local charities. Often these organizations require products to sell, a location to hold the fundraising event, or both. Small businesses could provide organizations with products for free or at a reduced price, or the business could allow the use of their location for the event. For instance, a community group could use the small business’ parking lot for a car wash or a bake sale.

2. Offer Academic Scholarships

The price of higher education has been increasing at a staggering rate for decades. Even a small amount of financial help can benefit a prospective college student. Small businesses could hold a scholarship competition for exceptional high school seniors.

To carry out this gesture, the business must require a detailed application, including a writing sample so that fair decision can be made on the applicants. Give definite deadlines and promote the event heavily at local high schools.

3. Get Involved in Community Service

In order to show social responsibility, small businesses can become actively involved in community service activities. The business could provide bottles of water to volunteers working outdoors. Companies could also offer incentives to employees who participate in a certain amount of community service or even require a set amount of hours to be completed by employees.

To start off in this area, you have to look out for causes that align with the nature of your company. For instance if you sell groceries, you could sponsor a community garden from which you donate the harvests to local food ministries.

4. Promote Responsible Behavior

Small businesses can aid in the prevention of dangerous activities by supporting groups that advocate for safe behaviors. The business could sponsor meetings by organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) by offering a meeting place.

Making donations to these groups is also a way of showing your company is interested in making a difference in the community. The National Federation of Independent Business suggests the company owner or manager sit on the board of a nonprofit agency.

5. Adopt a school in a rural area

Due to lack of quality primary education in rural area, thousands of young minds have never had a chance to try their luck in various fields including education, sports etc. The corporations can have a go in this field and provide quality education to the students in rural areas.

The companies could adopt a school and employ quality staff with good qualifications. They can also provide sanitary facilities, better infra-structures, free uniforms and stationary and provide opportunities for extra-curricular activities. Note this this CSR project can be financially demanding, so you have to know if your company can handle the responsibility.

6. Provide digital education in students in rural areas

Today, IT is one of the most emerging industries. It practically impossible to imagine a comfortable life without a knowledge of computers and smartphones. Companies can donate computers to the students of rural areas and provide free computer education and enhance their IT skills.

7. Collaborate with an NGO

NGOs are organizations that are continuously fighting for a social cause. The companies can join hands with an NGO and help them out by providing monetary funds and otherwise. The employees of the company can also volunteer to join the NGO in carrying out various activities it organizes.

8. Provide free medical camps in backward areas

It is a very commonly known fact that rural areas lack medical facilities. The companies can associate with hospitals and medical institutions to provide free health check-ups in rural areas. The camps can also be specific to a medical purpose like polio vaccination, testing for epidemic diseases like malaria, dengue, swine-flu etc. The can also organize awareness programs as part of this initiative.

9. Organise blood donation camps

Blood donation is considered to be one of the best ways to give back to the societies. Companies intending to further their corporate social responsibility can organize blood donation camps and invite general public to donate blood alongside their employees.

10. Donate sports equipment to schools

Sports is one of the major fields that attract the attention of students. Also with the increasing trends of video gaming and indoor games, the younger generations are lacking in physical fitness. Donating quality fitness and sports equipment would not only persuade the students to adopt a healthier lifestyle, but also advocate the company as a health and fitness promoting institution.

11. Sponsor adult education programs

A number of communities still have illiterate adults. If your business is situate in one of such communities, you can use this as a way to give back to the community. You can start by providing basic education in various fields of science and technology. Such programs can contribute to the reduction of employment and reduce the poverty of the nation. As a part of the initiative, companies can also organize such programs for the elderly.

12. Provide research scholarship to disadvantaged students 

For students of brilliant academic caliber but who have no means to fulfill their potential abroad, the company can provide to fund for the student’s tuition fee, accommodation fee and day to day living expenses, thereby providing deserving people with an opportunity they would have otherwise been devoid of. Also companies can provide funds to the students of lower income classes to carry out research and get their works published.

13. Organise food Camps

The companies can organize food camps and encourage the general public to donate as much food as they can, which can later be given away to, say an orphanage or an old-age home.

14. Make donations to orphanages/old age homes

Companies can donate handsome amounts, new clothes, toys etc. to an orphanage. The companies can also encourage their employees to do the same and also spend some quality time with the children, once in a while. These activities can also be carried forward to old age homes.

15. Utilize Existing Incentive Travel Programs

Take your existing incentive travel program and weave in corporate social responsibility elements. It can be optional or part of a larger team-building initiative, but sometimes it’s easier to modify an existing program than to build something from the ground up. In addition to managing the program design and end-to-end program operations, you can also include arrangements for corporate social responsibility programs or excursions.

16. Pick a national day of service

Choose a day and designate it as a company-wide service day. Many organizations select commemorative days, like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or Earth Day. Reach out to a local charity and allow them to help craft the volunteer experience.

Encourage employees to participate by making the process easy. Provide transportation, share plenty of communication, host a post-experience event, and more. Refer back to the day throughout the year as well to truly ingrain it as something to look forward to.

17. Design a User or Client Conference

Creating a meaningful experience for your industry is a great way to get the ball rolling in corporate social responsibility. Whether you host your event for customers, clients or workers, it’s a great way to introduce the ideas around CSR to a wide audience while choosing your lineup of sessions around a theme. And if you aren’t sure about where to start when it comes to putting on a conference, you can make some research.

18. Organize a Team Building Event

Team building can serve as a volunteer experience, too. Take your budget and time and consider taking employees on a service-learning trip, courtesy of your organization. As you build bonds between your team members, you will also have a direct, positive impact on the global community.

19. Offer pro-bono services

Offer pro-bono services from your staff while unleashing their talent and expertise for good. Companies like Discovery Communications host an annual Create the Change 12-hour creative marathon with hundreds of employees working on campaigns for dozens of nonprofits.

They devise promotional materials, press kits, videos, marketing and events strategies and social media campaigns in one day. More than 5,000 companies have pledged their pro bono and skills-based services to global causes through similar efforts.

20. Host a fitness challenge

Nurture good health and wellness habits among your workers with competitions, like seeing who can walk the most miles throughout the day. For even more impact, the prize for the winner each month could be a donation to a nonprofit of their choice. Use fitness tracking apps like Fitbit and UP to track which employees takes the most steps in one day to keep everyone accountable.

21. Race for a cure

Race for a cure with your team, and have the proceeds of the event go to a charity that is affiliated with the organisation. Each year, the Case Foundation team joins together for the Race for Hope to benefit Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure. The race has grown to more than 12,000 participants each year who support efforts to find a cure for brain cancer. Find a cause that resonates with your employees and join together to support it.

22. Institute a dollar-for-dollar match

Institute a dollar-for-dollar match where you as a business owner matches every dollar donated by an employee to a charity of their choice. Companies like GE, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson offer employee matches from $20,000 to $50,000, but even a small match of $500 per employee can go a long way for local nonprofits.

23. Crowdfund as a team

Crowdfund as a team on annual days of giving like your local city-wide giving day or the international #GivingTuesday holiday, which this year raised more than $116 million for nonprofits across the globe. Online giving platforms like Crowdrise and GlobalGiving make it easy to start a team page and raise funds together.

24. Volunteer as a group at a charity or nonprofit

Join together with your workers to help out at a charity or nonprofit event. More than 2.6 million volunteers, including businesses have provided 25 million hours of community service, and you too can. Just look out for a charity that has the same ideals as you do and encourage your employees to volunteer their time. You may add a little incentive so you can get more response.

25. Host a donation drive

Host a donation drive for items to give to shelters, including toiletries, clothing, canned goods, books, back-to-school supplies and holiday gifts. Encourage board service by your employees and give them time off to serve. Helping local drives for charity can be an extremely cost effective option. You can help in small ways throughout the year.

Start by donating the items local nonprofits, homeless shelters and food banks always need. Not only are you helping local nonprofits to benefit from the expertise of your employees, but board service builds leadership skills that can be brought back to your company as well.

26. Provide time off for staff to volunteer and serve outside of paid vacation

Companies like Deloitte offer unlimited paid time off to volunteer, while Salesforce offers up to six days a year. Find an amount of time that works for your startup company, and make sure employees know the volunteer time is there and how to access it.

27. Buy from neighboring small businesses

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.

28. Make the holidays special for families in need

Ask your employees to gather up new toys and make a special trip to take them to a Toys for Tots drop-off location. You can also adopt a family as an office, or allow teams to adopt families and gather their wish list items together. Organizations like the Touch a Heart Foundation and Soldier’s Angels (for adopting military families and deployed military members) make it easy to find a family to adopt

29. Scavenger Hunt across the City

You can mix a CSR program with a way to see a popular destination at the same time. You can do this by organizing experiential, city-wide scavenger hunts. You can split attendees into teams, and as they enjoy themselves, the competitors also have to collect nonperishable food and other items at each one of the stops.

At the end of the hunt, those items – donated by the businesses participating at each stop – are given to food pantries and charitable organizations. Think of it like an Amazing Race for the human race.

30. Gather together and donate towards disaster relief

This past year has seen one too many natural disasters, and if your employees feel the urge to donate toward disaster relief, they’re not alone. You can find a top-rated charity by checking Charity Navigator and searching for the charity theme or event you’d like to support, then set up a crowdfunding campaign to allow employees to donate to the cause. You can even step things up by offering an employer match for each donation made.

31. Donate Resources

Business owners will often donate physical products in the quest to be more philanthropic. There are fast food restaurants in town that take their leftover food to local shelters. I’ve heard of food companies, some that are even nationally known, donating their surplus produce twice a week. Once the food no longer meets that store’s standards, they gift it to food banks or pantries that feed those in need. So when thinking about donation options, don’t limit yourself to simply writing a check.

32. Employee health program

Why not start within your own walls? Engage your employees in some health incentives and see what happens. Research shows that physical activity leads to a better mood, sharpens focus, and increases productivity. Who wouldn’t want that around the office? But be sure to make the rewards something fun…like ice cream.

33. Do a fundraiser or 5k

Someone in your office probably has a medical issue that’s close to their hearts. If people personally know someone affected, they’re more likely to get involved. Ask the person how the office can rally support—maybe through a public event coming up, or a 5k walk/run. Many diseases in need of research funding make it easy for the public to participate. The first step is just showing up.

34. Support a community health center

Many communities have a health center for children, women, or families without sufficient access to medical care. If you’re a part of a professional medical group, consider setting up a way for your employees to volunteer on company time. If you’re not medical professionals, ask what other types of volunteer activities you can do—daycare, event set up, etc.

35. Pick something specific to donate

Medical equipment doesn’t have to be huge—you can donate something small, like glasses or recycled glasses. Glasses have a great ripple effect, because they help children do better in school, which will empower them for the rest of their lives.

36. Organize a donation

Find a relief organization you trust, and then raise money for it. Maybe donate a percentage of your sales for the month, ask your employees and clients for donations, or offer up some kind of service to raise awareness of the issue. Raising awareness goes hand-in-hand with raising money, so even if you don’t get huge numbers of donations, you’ve still done some good.

37. Sponsor someone

Most people know someone, or know someone who knows someone who will go on a relief trip to a place in need of extra hands. Consider donating company funds or raising money to help a contact go on such a trip. Places like Nepal and even Haiti still need help.

38. Sponsor yourselves

If you’re really interested, you could organize an employee trip for disaster relief. This could work if you have a very small, extremely flexible company, or if there’s an area near you in need of extra sets of hands.

39. Help close to home

You don’t have to stick to disaster relief—find someone in your own community facing a hardship who needs a “mini disaster” relief. Research organizations in your community who help people who have cleanup and damage repair needs around their homes that they are unable to fix themselves—be it for sickness, lack of funds, etc. and offer to help.

40. Go paperless

Go as paperless as possible and being mindful when printing an email, document or report is really necessary. When possible, print double-sided and in black and white. Keep a running count of the pages you print off – it’s just like calorie counting. You’ll be more cognizant of your consumption of paper. It should be noted that conserving paper is equal to conserving the environment.

41. Go meatless

Encourage packing a lunch and going Meatless one day per week! It will save you time, money and the environment as abstaining from meat for one day only will reduce your carbon footprint by 28.5%.

42. Donate Non-liquid Assets

Many times owners give away a non-liquid asset. That could end up being a blessing for the company. Perhaps it’s a piece of real estate. I have actually heard of a client that gave away their mineral rights. The client was in the coal mining industry and decided to give his mineral rights to an orphanage overseas.

Some owners choose to donate life insurance policies. It’s not uncommon for people to give away accounts sometimes, leaving them to charities to maintain and control. There are just so many ways to utilize giving back with cash.

43. Start a Donor Advised Fund

One of the most unusual ways to grant money to your favorite charity is called a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). These are excellent for creating a legacy. A legacy is a way to give money away for something in return. It’s just a way for the donor to be recognized for giving money to the charity.

Basically, a business owner gives money, in some form or fashion, to intermediaries. When it is set up this way, your financial advisor can help you to know the best route to possibly take. An example of that would be the business owner giving money to a church or some other group.

44. Get your employees involved

It’s not just customers who care about how your business gives back. The 2014 Millennial Impact Report, which looked at the influence of the millennial generation on the workplace, found that an employer’s “cause work” was a factor in job searches for 34 percent of millennials.

A further 55 percent of young workers were persuaded to take a job once they learned about a company’s charitable activity. The report also found that the majority of millennials wanted to contribute to a company that made a positive impact in the world.

Collecting for a cause is an obvious way to involve employees in charitable work, but the report also found that millennials preferred actively participating in companywide volunteer programs to passively donating. That means making volunteer work part of your company culture could be even more meaningful.

45. Reuse

Do you have disposable plates and cups available to your employees? If you have a coffee kitchen, then you have a wonderful opportunity to supply your office with reusable silverware and dishes. Even though people will have to clean their dishes, reusing will save costs in the long run. And save the planet, too.

46. Reduce Your Energy Consumption

Turn off unnecessary lights in your business overnight. Replace light bulbs with energy efficient ones. Power down your computers when not in use. If you own your own building, install solar energy panels. Your energy reduction will also result in long term savings.

47. Establish Your Own Grant Program

Although small businesses account for the majority of the workforce, they cannot match big companies in revenues. Large companies are able to endow foundations that can make huge donations to support nonprofits or social enterprises.

Small businesses may not have the kind of funding that large businesses have, but they can set up an application process for small local non-profits that helps charities in their fundraising process as well as helps the business control the deluge of requests for donations.

48. Collaborate With Other Businesses

Small businesses can more easily find inventive ways of collaborating with other small businesses, either through their Chamber of Commerce, local branches of associations, networking groups, or just in their local business community. Helping each other to develop a healthy local economy and sustainable business practices is the kind of community involvement that can help the entire community grow.

49. Dedicate Donations Based on Sales

There are two easy ways to 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.)

50. Help Global Causes

Global causes should be more interesting to small business owners, and they can invest modestly in micro-lending enterprises. Some small businesses have started their own social enterprises directly supporting local or global causes, with part or all of their profits going to both local and/or global causes.

There are also opportunities to support the many 501c3 organizations located in local communities that support global causes such as building schools in Africa, or sending supplies to underprivileged communities.

Ejike Cynthia