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There is a common emphasis on finding ways for businesses to give back to the community. The need to support the community—commonly referred to as corporate social responsibility or “CSR”—isn’t just ethical. It can feed the very fabric of an enterprise itself.

Good CSR initiatives encourage employee loyalty and retention. They foster goodwill with customers, too, and even help with things like brand awareness.

Of course, these benefits come from high-quality CSR initiatives. You can’t just throw money at charities or let your employees volunteer on the clock. You need to show your staff and your customers that you’re uniquely committed to the well-being of your community.

12 Ways for Businesses to Give Back to the CommunityWith that in mind, here are some innovative ideas to supercharge the way your company gives back to the people that surround it.

1. Create Comprehensive Internships That Offer More ValueOffering internships is a classic way for a company to give new talent a chance to shine. Of course, the quality of the internship often dictates how much of an effect they will have—and unfortunately, interns often spend internships doing uncompensated and undesirable work.

One way for businesses to give back is by partnering with academic institutions to create more meaningful opportunities for upcoming professionals.

For example, High Point University partners with local businesses to create a comprehensive, 360-degree internship experience.[1] This includes pairing students with leaders throughout executive hierarchies to help them gain big-picture insights into how major organizations meet their goals.

By investing in the internship opportunities that your company creates, you send the signal that you’re interested in more than your own internship-related benefits. You truly want to invest in the future workforce for the benefit of all.

2. Build Meaningful PartnershipsAs a company, you can offer donations to local charities. You can even promote charities and offer incentives like matching donations.

But if you really want to take your support to the next level, you may want to be more strategic. Look for local organizations that mesh well with your company.

For example, if you’re a marketing firm partnering, you could partner with a soup kitchen to help with promotions (more on donor marketing further down).

By building meaningful partnerships, you do more than offer a charity a lump sum of cash and get listed on a wall of donors. This boosts your local street cred and helps you cultivate an image of a company that is willing to not just give money but take the time to add value to your community.

3. Set Up Business Networking EventsGiving back to your community doesn’t have to be a charity-only option. Along with supporting the underprivileged, you can also extend your CSR efforts to local businesses.

Every community is held up by its own stores, shops, facilities, and other enterprises. If you want to make an impact, consider facilitating healthy interactions within this limited network.

Set up community networking events that can facilitate professional peer-to-peer connections. This won’t just help local companies interact and connect. It can also help you build valuable new relationships as well.

Be a community connector.

4. Take the Marketing Lead on DonationsWhen someone mentions CSR initiatives, it usually brings to mind large quantities of donated cash. Volunteer hours are a close second. But there are other ways for businesses to give back to the community, including offering the very services that keep you in business.

Take the aforementioned marketing firm as a good example. A marketing agency doesn’t specialize in donating money. It is uniquely qualified to promote products, services, and so on.

As such, a successful marketing firm could support its local community by offering its expert marketing help to local charities. This creates synergy by donating your marketing team’s time, resources, and power.

Instead of a single donation, it can lead to dozens or even hundreds of them, astronomically growing your impact in the process.

5. Donate Your Own Products When ApplicableAnother simple way a company can give back to its community is by donating its own products. If you create products that are beneficial to those around you, you can donate them as a direct way of supporting your neighbors.

One of the best things about this is that it’s a cost-effective donation strategy. For instance, rather than giving a $1,000 donation in cash, you could give 20 $100 products that only cost you $50 each to create.

6. Provide Targeted Responses to CrisesSometimes the best way to give back is in general ways. At other times, unique opportunities will present themselves. To make this work, though, you have to be willing to stay flexible and adapt to situations.

For instance, the lactation-focused health and wellness brand Go-Lacta found its supplements in high demand during the recent formula shortage in the U.S. In response to the crisis, the company offered discounts and donations to help struggling mothers provide nourishment for their little ones.[2]

The company seized on the temporary brand-building opportunity by helping its community.

7. Make Pivots Oriented Toward Your CommunitySimilar to the previous suggestion, you can also make pivots within your company. However, unlike offering a targeted response, this option requires more investment on the part of your business and its operations.

As an example, General Motors and Ford shifted their production capabilities during the pandemic. Rather than only creating cars (a process that was already disrupted by supply chain issues, anyway), the vehicle makers started creating much-needed ventilators, as well.[3] This pivot created an indelible mark of goodwill from the community.

8. Donate Your Space and EquipmentThis one goes along with several of the other suggestions on this list. While donations focus on time and money, sometimes it’s your overhead costs that can come in handy, as well.

Many companies pay copious amounts of money to rent spaces, buy office furnishings, and otherwise pay for basic needs to keep their businesses functioning.

Look for ways to donate your company’s workspaces and accompanying possessions when they’re not in use. You can also give used items to local charities when you’re done with them.

9. Offer Special Deals for Your Community MembersIf you want to harbor goodwill among your local community, sometimes all you need to do is target specials and deals toward them. This is a great way to make them feel uniquely supported by their local companies.

For instance, if you’re a SaaS company that has a subscription service, offer it to local companies at a discounted rate. By targeting neighbors with your goodwill, you can foster a positive attitude toward your brand.

10. Go Green as a CompanyMany brands, especially those that operate online, lack an easily identifiable “community.” When your customers span the nation or even the globe, you need to find ways to give back in a very broad sense.

One way to do this is by going green. Companies like the health brand All Real Nutrition show their commitment to their sprawling community by creating sustainable business activities.[4] This sends a global message that they care about their impact on others and are doing their best to give back wherever possible.

11. Look for Low-Stakes Yet Meaningful MovesThere are some ways for businesses to give back to the community that don’t involve saving lives or helping the underprivileged. At times, the goal is simply to foster a sense of goodwill with the local people who live, work, and exist around where a company operates.

You can cultivate a positive relationship with your local community by finding fun ways to associate your brand with their experiences.

For instance, giving away tickets to a local sports team is a great way to create a lasting impression.

12. Put the Power in the Hands of Your CustomersAs a final recommendation, remember to keep the thoughts and opinions of your community in mind as you go about finding unique ways to give back. Sometimes there’s nothing better than direct input to figure out what your community needs.

By asking your community members how they want to see your company give back, you can generate targeted, timely ideas. When in doubt, put the power in the hands of your community.

Overcoming the Generic When Giving BackDonating chunks of change and generic volunteer hours are good starting points—when thoughtfully given. But they should never be where your corporate social responsibility stops.

Instead, take the time to find unique and meaningful ways to give back to your business’s community.

If you can invest memorably, you’ll be able to benefit both the community and your brand over time.

Featured photo credit: RODNAE Productions via

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