For merchants during the holiday season, it’s easy to get distracted, either by the hustle of your customers or the “cha-ching” of the register.
But we know you’ll agree, that it’s important to stop, take a moment, and reflect on your appreciation of the community your business calls home. Remember, if it wasn’t for the locals that shop on Main Street, your business might not exist.
Giving back to the community this holiday season doesn’t have to be elaborate; it’s often the smallest actions that are appreciated the most. Acts of social responsibility, whether large or small, can have a significant impact on the morale of employees and customer respect of your business.
1. Donate Items from Your Store
One of the most obvious ways for brick and mortar stores to give back to the community during the holidays are direct business donations to local nonprofits and charities. Own a toy store? You can donate unwrapped toys to Toys For Tots. If you’re a grocer you can donate canned goods to your local food bank. A great way to get your customers involved is to set up a drop location at your business. Send out an email blast to loyal customers letting them know that your location will be collecting goods to benefit the local community. Just make sure to specify what you will and will not be able to accept. You don’t want well-meaning customers dropping off wrapped toys and perishable items a nonprofit won’t accept.
2. Donate a Percentage of Your Profits
If giving actual goods sounds like too many logistics, donating a percentage of your profits is an easier — but equally as effective — way to give back. Choose a charity that is either relevant to your business or that is personally important to you and your family. Put a sign in your window and send out an email to loyal customers to inform them about the charity you will be donating to and the percentage of your profits you’ll be donating. If the charity isn’t related to your business’s industry but of personal importance, give your customers some context. They’ll appreciate you sharing part of your life with them and will feel more invested in your story and shopping at your store. Need help finding a charity? You can browse Charity Navigator by subject and location.
3. Volunteer Your Time
If you and your staff can spare the time and prefer a more personal connection to your community, consider volunteering for a day or afternoon at a charity or nonprofit of your choice. Though your whole team might not be able to attend all at once (who would watch the store?!), give your staff the choice of two different dates and times. This also allows you the option of helping out two different charities. Maybe half of your employees want to volunteer at a local animal shelter for an afternoon but the other half prefer volunteering for Habitat for Humanity — regardless of what they choose, the important thing is that your staff feels connected to the organization and is personally invested.
To additionally help out your community and engage with your customers, provide a signup sheet in your store and allow customers to join your volunteer outings. What better way to give back than to volunteer alongside new and loyal customers!
4. Wrap Presents for a Cause
If you’re looking to get your family and the families of your employees involved, hosting wrapping hours is a great place to start. After school and on weekends, invite the children and spouses of your staff to volunteer their time in your store to wrap presents for tips. At the end of the day or week, the tips that have been collected will go to the charity or nonprofit of your choice. Just make sure that your customers know where their tips will be donated; they’ll appreciate the gesture and will be more likely to give. We also suggest checking in with your chosen charity — prior to your wrapping party — to coordinate with an administrator.
5. Throw A Gratitude Party
If you’re looking to give back directly to your customers this holiday season, consider throwing a gratitude party. Invite both loyal and new customers by sending out an evite and posting the occasion on social media. Bake cookies, serve apple cider and give out free goodie bags for the first 20-50 people who arrive. It might not sound like much, but going the extra mile to show your customers that you appreciate their business will stick with them throughout the year.