“My business will donate more money once I’m better off.” It’s something I’ve heard from fellow entrepreneurs and have sometimes said myself. But over the past year or so I’ve learned there are many more ways to give–and not just in a monetary sense.
This fall I took a trip to Brazil and I was introduced to Neide Santos, founder of Vida Corrida, an organization that helps kids stay safe through organized sports in one of São Paulo’s most dangerous barrios. As Santos told me her story, my heart broke. She had lost both her husband and one son to gun violence and started the organization to save children from similar fates. I wondered how my business–and many others–could help organizations like this one, even if we don’t have thousands of dollars at our fingertips to donate.
1. Volunteer Your Time
At 7 a.m., Neide’s son picked me up from São Paulo and we went together to Capão Redondo, a barrio in which gun violence is a rising concern and daily occurrence. Looking out the window, there wasn’t a child to be found playing in the street. We drove to a park far out of the city. Getting out of the car, I saw dozens of children running, laughing, and playing.
Neide explained to me that Vida Corrida hosts organized times for children to get together and learn through running, play, and participating in group sports together. I spoke to a mother who was volunteering, and she told me this was one of the only times her son was able to get out and exercise because of the condition of the neighborhood. Vida Corrida is a small organization; it’s made up of 17 volunteers altogether. They give their time to help the children, asking nothing in return. There are countless programs and organizations like Vida Corrida for which donating time is just as crucial as funds. As a volunteer, you can help out in numerous ways, from pitching in with administrative tasks to organizing and running new programs.
“Anyone can change the world for someone by volunteering,” Santos says, adding that volunteering gives both to the volunteer and the recipient. If you’re looking for a way to give back but your budget doesn’t allow you to, look for ways to volunteer your time instead. And it needn’t be an intensive commitment; many organizations can benefit from as little as a single day of your time–and in fact count on this type of support to stay up and running.
2. Donate Your Expertise
Another way your startup or small business can help is by providing expertise to philanthropic causes. After experiencing Vida Corrida in action, I’m committing my marketing agency to help out with copywriting free of charge.
You may not have the money right now to donate, but you’re likely to have a smart team with valuable expertise to offer others. No matter what your profession, there’s something you can do to help. If you’re a design agency, consider helping a nonprofit refresh its branding. If you’re a law firm, consider offering your services pro bono to help an organization in need. Organizations like Vida Corrida could use a hand with everything from website maintenance to partnership development, which are skills many startups and growing businesses have already mastered.
Not sure where to look for volunteer opportunities? Ask your network to make a few recommendations. I met Xavi Cortadellas at a conference in São Paulo, and it was he who first suggested I visit Santos and check out the Vida Corrida project, since I had a few days left of my trip with no itinerary. “There are many ways to collaborate with philanthropic causes beyond money,” says Cortadellas, who is head of design and innovation at Gatorade. Since 2011, Gatorade has supported Corrida by donating free products for the youth athletes’ workouts.
“I met Neide during one relay race from São Paulo to Rio organized by Nike,” Cortadellas tells me. “She was pushing the rest of the team the same way she pushes all the kids to run and stay active at Vida Corrida. Volunteering and mentoring are great ways to get involved with organizations and contribute with time and specific skills or talent,” but that’s not the only option. You can also tap into the relationships bigger companies have already established. “Identify sponsors or big organizations that may contribute to organizations like Vida Corrida,” he suggests.
3. Spread Awareness
Everyone has a voice. While you might not have deep pockets, chances are you and your business have social media accounts with growing audiences. All it takes is a single post to help get the message out about a great cause. If your company has a weekly or monthly newsletter, consider using your next one to share an announcement with your customers and partners about an initiative worth their attention. You can even use your blog, Facebook, or Instagram account to help solicit donations and support from your network–change starts with a conversation.
“All big companies need to look beyond the bottom line and think broadly about their values and what they want stand for,” continues Cortadellas. But small and growing businesses should, too. Find an organization that shares your values and together you can help spread them even further. Think of 2018 as a new opportunity to do even just a little more good. So before January is out, every business leader–no matter how small or cash-strapped their company–should ask themselves: “How will we make a difference this year?”