As a member of the startup community, giving back and helping others is a part of the job. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs claim they don’t have the time or resources to lend a helping hand. While I don’t doubt that they’re limited on hours or assets — there are ways all of us can give back easily and efficiently to others. Here are 12 ways entrepreneurs can help others.
1. Listen to what your team is saying.
Your employees are an indispensable resource. They’re a talented bunch of individuals who can take your idea and make it a thriving business. They also have fresh ideas on how to better assist your customers. After all, they’re often the ones who are interacting most with your audience.
Additionally, your team members may have suggestions on how your business can give back to the community. For example, maybe they’re aware of a local non-profit that aligns with your values that you had never heard of. Most importantly, when you listen to your team you can find ways to become a stronger leader that can help them grow both in and out of the workplace.
Don’t be afraid to solicit ideas from your staff. Whether it’s through surveys or a town-hall type of meeting, turn to your team for advice on how you can become a more effective leader, better serve your customers, and help the community.
2. Stop saying, “I don’t have time.”
We’ve all been guilty of using this excuse — but we should begin to eliminate it from our vocabulary. You get an email from a colleague asking for your feedback. Sometimes a friend or client asks if you can schedule a lunch meeting with them. Unfortunately, because you’re so busy, you automatically respond with something on the lines of, “Sorry, I don’t have time.
The truth, as my business partner John Hall notes in an article for Forbes, we’re not as busy as we believe. As a result, you lose trust and credibility with others. Even worse, we become viewed as someone who isn’t reliable.
Does this mean that we have to stop what you’re doing when someone asks for a time request? Of course not. You can’t always put other people’s priorities ahead of your own. But, you could take five minutes to answer a quick question, send them a link to a resource, or refer them to someone who is more equipped to help them then you could.
3. Mentor other entrepreneurs.
You’ve been able to start and run a business. Because of this, you have plenty of advice to offer to an aspiring entrepreneur. Whether it’s a friend you’re helping or someone who contacted you after reading an article you wrote, mentoring other business owners is one of the easiest and effective ways to help others.
The most direct way is to share your failures and successes during your journey with those new to the world of entrepreneurship. It may not sound like much. Those who you choose to help can replicate what worked well for you and avoid the mistakes that you’ve made.
4. Sponsor local non-profit organizations.
There is no shortage of organizations within your proximity that could use corporate sponsorship. In most cases, they need financial assistance to lessen the burden of hosting an event. Even if they have enough cash to cover the costs of the function and administrative tasks, there’s still a need for people to raise funds and motivate donations. You may even merely opt to spread awareness of the non-profit by promoting the non-profit on your website.
As an added perk, helping other people or businesses gets your business some additional visibility. And, it shows that you want to be an active and supportive member of the community. Again, ask your team if there are any non-profits you could sponsor. Or, check out an organization like Startups Give Back.
5. Donate to charities.
Giving to a charity is one of the most common ways that you can help others. For instance, you could donate a portion of your company’s proceeds to a local non-profit that is near-and-dear to your heart. However, there are several other ways that you can donate without breaking the bank or devoting too much of your time.
Ideas include: giving blood, donating the items you no longer use and shopping at socially responsible businesses. You can also play a vocabulary game at Free Rice. For every correct answer, 10 grains of rice will be donated to the World Food Program for each correct answer. Another option is Care2 where, thanks to advisors, whenever you click on article donations are generated to a specific. It’s not only an easy to support a cause; it’s also informative.
6. Share your skills.
There are various opportunities for you to put your talents to good use. For example, if you can code, then you could build a website for a non-profit, educational institution, or startup that has a tight budget. Personally, I use my skills by working with the Open to Hope Foundation.
Even if you aren’t an “expert,” but still possess some expertise in a particular skill set, you can always be of assistance. A couple of years ago, for example, a friend of mine wanted to start blogging. I spent a couple of hours with him setting up a WordPress site. Even though I didn’t consider myself a WordPress pro at the time, I had enough knowledge to get his site up and running.
7. Encourage your team to volunteer.
It’s not uncommon for businesses to provide their employees paid time off to volunteer for any charity of their choice. Even better, make volunteering a part of your company’s culture. For instance, maybe once a month you and your team volunteer together at an organization like Habitat for Humanity or Girls Who Code.
Creating time for these charities not only helps others, but it’s also great for team building. Additionally, it gives your employees a chance to strengthen their skills, and it will improve the morale of your entire company.
8. Support local SMBs and startups.
As an entrepreneur, you want to make the world a better place. But that doesn’t always mean that you have to act globally. Sometimes it’s best to focus your efforts locally. There’s no better way to do that than by supporting other small businesses in your community.
When possible, buy as much as you can from your neighbors. Examples include purchasing supplies from vendors, using local service-providers, and promoting these businesses on your site. Other alternatives would be to leave online reviews, run cross-promotions, or host an event together like a sidewalk sale.
If there aren’t any ways to be more active in the local ecosystem, you can at least support startups. You can back a Kickstarter campaign or just spread the good work about the founder so that they get a little traction.
9. Speak or teach.
Entrepreneurs and students are always searching for advice. Some are hoping to learn new skills and information, while others are hoping to sharpen their existing skills. Accommodate them by sharing your knowledge and expertise by speaking on a panel or teaching a class at a local college or university.
10. Write about your experiences.
What if you don’t have to an opportunity to speak or teach others in person? The best solution is to write about your experience and industry knowledge. Regardless if you have your own blog or guest write on leading industry publications, sharing your advice and ideas is arguably the best way to help your fellow entrepreneurial community.
11. Move from closed to open-source.
This suggestion may not be applicable to every startup. However, if you have a piece of code, you may want to consider open-sourcing your code. It could be useful to someone else who is building a product or service. It’s a great way to build a community and attract talent to your startup.
12. Use your business to make money and give back.
Finally, design a business model that can turn a profit while being charitable. It may sound hypocritical, but it’s acceptable to run an enterprise while giving back. One way you can do this is by automatically donating a portion of your profits from each sale to a cause you champion.
Another idea is to be socially conscious. I’ve already listed some of these ways that you can achieve this. But, as a wrap-up, this could be done by partnering with local businesses, being charitable, and providing learning opportunities for your employees.