I’m a Small Business Owner. Do I Need to Spend Time on Community Outreach?

Community Outreach

The short answer: Yes.

But if you need a “why,” then here are 5 very good reasons you need to make community outreach part of your larger corporate mission:

A community-focused mission attracts high-quality talent.

Surveys are mixed on the oft-derided Millennial generation’s demands for purpose over pay, but the overall numbers are clear: 74% of candidates surveyed in 2016 said they want their work to have meaning (beyond profits). So, if you sculpt your company as one narrowly focused on revenues, sales, and the bottom line, you’ll quickly lose the interest of highly qualified candidates. In any case, the reality for most startups is that they can’t afford to offer incredibly competitive salaries, so they lean on perks and benefits to offset them. Drop a meaningful mission and you drop the purpose that makes talented candidates excited to come to work.

Outreach engenders positive relationships with community members who may do business with you.

A few hours of volunteerism is really all it takes to build and maintain positive community relationships. And when those relationships are built on an altruistic foundation, it’s much easier for those in your neighborhood to lend a hand when you need one. Plus, this kind of activity is the root of organic marketing. You brand yourself as a company willing to get your hands dirty to improve the world around you, and that makes a very good impression. Word of mouth praise will get your brand circulating before you even have a chance to launch a formal marketing campaign. Oh—and it’s free.

Knowing your community can help with product or service development.

This may sound like a stretch, but it isn’t. Whenever you dive in to help out other businesses or organizations, you get a front-line look at community pain points. These pain points are gold for your business; you can use them to launch a remedying product or service, or simply create content that educates people about the issues you discover so that others can help. In either case, you’re building good karma by paying attention to need and addressing it with your own resources. You can even offer community members a special discount on newly developed products and services, giving them credit for the inspiration.

A (regular) helping hand fosters community advocates.

Let’s say you run into a problem with the city or county; you might struggle with zoning issues or construction problems. Having the community behind you when you have to face city representatives or local courts is a huge boon. When the neighborhood shows that they’re behind what you do, the authorities may just be more lenient. If they’re not able to give your company a special dispensation, they will at least be more inclined to offer a solution that takes financial burdens off your company while satisfying legal requirements. Petitions from the community can be gold in these situations.

Financial investment in community development means more business.

Financial and time donations to the community not only engender good relationships, but they foster civic growth. That growth will ultimately redound to your benefit as more people move to the area (or visit your neighborhood), making your business increasingly visible and, as a result, prime for sales to a widening consumer base.


It should be noted that while community outreach is a good thing, most people can smell a red herring; they know when you’re being disingenuous and “lending a hand” simply to pile on the profits.

But if you fold volunteerism into your company mission from day one and surround yourself with team members who embrace purpose beyond profits, you will find the benefits are limitless—and your genuine enthusiasm for work will grow exponentially.

[Click here for in-depth statistics on corporate giving and resulting employee engagement.]

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Jeff Steen

Jeff Steen is the Associate Editor of Early to Rise. Previously, he worked in food and hospitality journalism, but is currently focused on bringing unique, insightful content to the ETR world.