Back in the day, the business owners I knew — wary about alienating their customers — would generally keep the causes they care about separate from the workplace. Today, the reverse is true. Business owners who get more involved in social issues are seeing a rise in revenue because of their activism.
A survey of more than 1,100 consumers conducted by Cox Business, the commercial division of Cox Communications, found that 71 percent of the respondents would spend more money at a small business if it supported a social cause — as long as it’s positive or environmental.
According to entrepreneur and lawyer Chidike Samuelson, a socially active company can reap many benefits besides increasing revenue. Companies that participate in certain causes are able to recruit better talent, increase employee morale, improve their brand and attract more capital, he said.
“We are in the era of giving back and social impact,” he wrote last month in Entrepreneur. “Businesses should face this, and stop using the fact that they are not yet ‘big businesses’ as an excuse for boycotting charitable involvements or social responsibility. Businesses that do this are missing out on the great benefits hidden on the other side of socially responsible companies.”
But before a business owner starts marching in rallies or contributing a bunch of money to their favorite charity, they should be careful: Half of the consumers participating in the survey said they wouldn’t buy from a small business if the causes they supported “weren’t in line with the consumer’s social and/or environmental views.” So, good luck figuring that out!
But if you do decide to support a cause, there are many ways to show it, including offering your employees a chance to do pro-bono or volunteer work, matching employee gifts to the cause, hosting events or running holiday or special fundraising campaigns. You won’t be alone. A 2017 survey from Allstate Insurance Company and USA Today found that almost half of the business owners asked said they contribute to local charities or perform community service close to home.