Small businesses can participate in voluntary work

Columnist Dean Swanson says even with limited human capital, small businesses can give back to their communities in big ways.

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How can a small business participate in volunteer work without sacrificing too much time/energy? I have observed that many CEOs do this and find that it is a valuable experience for their business. In the next two columns, I will share the piece that Brett Farmiloe, one of SCORE’s content partners, did recently. He is also the founder and CEO of Terkel, a Q&A site that converts insights from small business owners into high-quality articles for brands.

To help small businesses discover the best ways to participate in volunteer work, we asked CEOs and small business owners this question for their best insights. From joining a larger effort to making a donation to a local charity, there are several resources that allow your business to participate in volunteer work without sacrificing too much time or energy. Here are some ideas:

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Join a larger effort. Joining larger volunteer efforts allows small businesses to give back to the community without over-dedicating scarce time or resources. For example, entering a charity race, donating goods to a charity auction, joining a community cleanup day, or participating in a food drive are all great options. These projects often have simple systems for groups to join. The event staff takes care of the organization and administration so businesses can drop in, do good, and return to business without planning and executing the event. — Tasia Duske, Museum Hack.

Volunteer online. A great way to volunteer without sacrificing too much time/energy is to volunteer online. If you are a software company, offer your services to charities and organizations that would benefit from your tools. Same with if you are an SEO company, help build a better site for organizations for free. These types of volunteer work are usually low-cost and low-energy but still better for a community. — Michael Jankie, Natural Patch.

Organize a fundraising event. Every community service group requires monetary donations, but you don't have to open your checkbook to help. Instead, host a fund-raiser for your favorite charity. You may make a difference by organizing a philanthropic raffle, walkathon, race, or other community event and offering something just as valuable as money: your time. — Veronica Miller, VPNOverview.


Host an item drive. Plan an item drive for an organization or cause you support. That could be a school supplies drive for your local schools, a canned food drive for a local food bank, or a clothing drive for families. Notify employees about the drive, have a collection area, and coordinate to have someone drop off the donations. Item drives can make a big difference in your community, and they don't take up too much time or resources to plan. — Tyler Read, Personal Trainer Pioneer.

Sponsor volunteer surrogates. If you want to do some good in your community but don’t have the bandwidth to do so, simply use a surrogate. In other words, find some volunteer mercenaries of sorts. Let me explain by example, as this is precisely what our company does each year. Rather than taking a full day of our entire team’s time to volunteer at a food bank or build a community garden, I instead pay the local high school’s JV baseball team to do so for us. I purchase their new jerseys for the year (usually around $1,200), and in exchange, the team spends an entire Saturday doing volunteer work on our company’s behalf, usually picking up trash in the park.

This is a win-win-win scenario. The community benefits from a cleaner and more beautiful park, the baseball team gets brand new jerseys, and our company effectively funds two meaningful purposes. In my opinion, paying surrogates is the only way to do volunteer work. — John Ross, Test Prep Insight.

Build your schedule first. Build your monthly volunteer schedule first to find the organization that has the needs that fit your time best, rather than picking the opportunity first and trying to stuff their time requirements into your jam-packed schedule. Set aside time in your individual and collective team schedules for volunteer opportunities, then use a volunteer platform or reach out yourself to connect with not-for-profits that need your team’s help. You may even be able to score virtual opportunities that are virtual or flexible by nature, which makes scheduling a little easier. If a prospect doesn’t fit your schedule, move on to the next – there are plenty of worthwhile causes that all need and deserve volunteer help. — James Diel, Textel.

In my next column, I will share some more ideas on this topic.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the North West Region.

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