Why All Entrepreneurs Should Pay It Forward On #GivingTuesday

2015-11-20-1448033143-5325036-SuzanneSmith.jpgSuzanne Smith, Founder of Social Impact Architects, has been reshaping the business of social change for more than two decades. As an educator, writer/blogger (Social TrendSpotter), TedX speaker, and coach to social sector organizations, she pioneers meaningful and sustainable social solutions to create real, scalable impact. Suzanne holds an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. And now, there's #GivingTuesday. Created in 2012 as a global day of giving, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season. In 2014, the idea blew up Twitter with 320,000 tweets and 30,000 partners in 68 countries. It raised millions for charities.

While it was mostly Fortune 500 companies (Home Depot, Avon) that took notice, some small businesses also joined forces. The White Butterfly Gift Shop in New Jersey designed a special T-shirt and donated the proceeds to support a mother of five who could not afford cancer treatments. The Charmery in Baltimore created a custom ice cream flavor and donated all proceeds from it to the City's #BMoreGivesMore campaign.

While #GivingTuesday has been chiefly about giving back, businesses can also pay it forward and see the dividends for their efforts. In Crain's Chicago Business, Andrew Swinand proposes that Millennials see social responsibility as the "new religion." He suggests that -- ­when buying a product or considering employment -- Millennials require corporate social responsibility efforts be connected to their brand and offer more than a one-time donation.

In 2013, NPD and Civic Science asked consumers how important a company's "social consciousness" was in determining where they shop and what they buy. Seventy-eight percent said it was either "very" important or "somewhat" important. Deloitte's 2011 Volunteer IMPACT Survey found that 70 percent of Millennials say a company's commitment to the community would likely be a factor when choosing between two potential jobs. No matter the size, the best companies are recognizing these trends and finding ways to engage with the community.

This year, I strongly encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to consider a triple play this holiday shopping season and add #GivingTuesday to your marketing and HR efforts. Here are a few easy and impactful ways to pay it forward:
  • Share your annual report on your company's investments in the community year-round. Use #GivingTuesday as a capstone event. Donate a percentage of your sales to a local charity. Conduct a community-wide drive. Use your marketing dollars to remind your customers to give. View my company's, Social Impact Architects, annual report, which discusses the ways we give back year-round.
  • Ask your customers what charities matter to them and what you should support in 2016. This could give you valuable intel about the causes that best connect to your brand and your customers. In 2015, we focused our giving on efforts on improving early childhood education and alleviating poverty.
  • Rally employees to donate to a local charity or kick off your holiday charity efforts. Unveil your Salvation Army Christmas tree or local food bank canned food drive. Surprise employees with a day off in 2016 to support their charity of choice. Offer to match employee donations on #GivingTuesday through an easy-to-follow, customizable platform by Network for Good. This #GivingTuesday, we will be taking time to celebrate our work in 2015 and start our plans for 2016. We will be conducting a social media campaign to encourage others to join the movement. We will also match our employee's donations on #GivingTuesday.
As a Benefit Corporation, Social Impact Architect's giving philosophy is literally embedded in our DNA. We take on important community issues and often share our time and talent on pro-bono work. Our philosophy is extended among our employees and contractors, whom we encourage to support causes that are important to them.

Every company will have its own way to celebrate #GivingTuesday, and your efforts will grow and evolve each year. Whether you do something small or go big, it all counts. So after the turkey leftovers are gone and the shopping madness has ended, do something nice for yourself, your company and your community, and join the #GivingTuesday movement.