Most entrepreneurs spend a lot of time devising ways to build up their businesses and deepen their relationships with clients. Being selfless in client relationship management is essential to creating client capital, and businesses should regularly strive to deliver value-added service.
But when was the last time you thought about serving your community? Giving back to your neighbourhood or local region can be good for the soul as well as for your business. As I noted in "Business Philanthropy Comes in Many Forms," you can help your community in more ways than just signing a check. Additionally, this can be a great way to build up some positive PR for your organization, as long as your main reason for getting involved is genuine and driven by a desire to make positive change.
Consider getting your clients involved in your philanthropic efforts. Advertise a matching program (up to a set dollar amount) on your website, or spread the word about an upcoming race or volunteer day that you and/or your employees plan to participate in. The effort can even get competitive. Set up teams of employees or even clients and keep track of how much money each group raises or the number of service hours they fulfill. Track everyone's progress on a webpage, a blog or a physical chart in the office in order to sustain the participants' enthusiasm.
Ask clients and prospects what groups they are connected with - this can be a great way to network for community efforts and for future professional needs. Word of mouth can be particularly powerful when spreading good news, so make sure you encourage employees and clients to discuss any community initiatives you take on with their friends, family and contacts.
How do you balance the demands of being an entrepreneur with those of being a philanthropist? Do you share your wealth in whatever form you have it - time, talent or treasure? Do you engage in conversations with your employees and clients about how you can all make the world (or at least your small part of it) a better place?
By giving back to the community, you can enjoy almost endless benefits - to those around you, to your own sense of well-being and to the reputation of your business.