One of my favorite parts about being a creative entrepreneur is I get to decide where my money goes. I get to decide how much of the profits I take for myself, how much I invest back in my business for new equipment or opportunities, how much I put towards education and networking events, and my new favorite — how much I give back to communities and organizations around the world that make a real difference in the lives of those who need it. At the beginning of 2015, I set a goal to start giving back a portion of my shop profits to a few select causes that I was passionate about. Turn on the news any day of the week, and it’s pretty obvious there are people in the world who have bigger problems than I do yet have access to fewer resources. As a self-employed woman in charge of my own funds, I decided to use my business as a tool to help others reach goals and solve problems much greater than my own.
I say this not to boast, but because I know this is a desire of a lot of entrepreneurs doing business today. I’ve seen it discussed among small business owners, both online and in-person — we’re all looking for ways we can help make a difference and give to a cause that’s bigger than ourselves or our business. So today I want to outline 3 main ways you can use your business as a tool to give back to your community and around the world. Multiple examples of each type are included with links so you can put your money where your mouth is and support tons of different causes through the businesses you choose to support. At the end of the post, you’ll also get to download a free Give Back Action Plan to start implementing your own giveback program for your business.
1. Giving back with money + product
Giving back with monetary or product donations is the most common way I see a lot of businesses making a difference in their communities. You could approach this a few different ways, so decide what works best for your business and your finances, and check out these other businesses utilizing these methods for themselves:
Donating a portion of your total profits
Hello Giving (by Hello Paper World) — Kelly generously gives 10% of her profits year-round to a variety of charities, picking a new one each month. She sells rubber stamps and other paper goods.
The Boaz Fund (by Val Marie Paper) — Val's gorgeous prayer journals just got a whole lot more beautiful . . . for each journal sold, she donates 50 cents to a new charity each month through her program called the Boaz Fund.
Donating all profits or a larger portion of profits from one specific product, product line, or service
Aaden Sage (by Ashlee Proffitt) — Inspired by the loss of her infant son, Ashlee started a line of paper goods and gifts to donate 100% of its proceeds to families who have lost a child and helping them cover funeral costs.
Give Grace Campaign (by Scarlet & Gold) — They're developed an entire line of products in which 100% of the proceeds go towards helping couples (including the company's founder) struggling to afford IVF or adoption to start a family.
1-for-1 method – donating one of the same product (or similar) you’re selling to someone in need
Nothin But Nola — For every bag of granola sold, they donate a meal to someone in need around the world. Unfortunately they're closing their business, so hurry to get the last of their delicious, hunger-fighting granola before it’s gone!
Warby Parker — for every pair of glasses they sell, they donate enough money to source lenses + glasses for their nonprofit partners to resell in their communities — teaching them about commerce, learning the trade of eye care, and allowing them to earn their own living.
2. Giving back with materials + labor
Another way to give back is in the way that you create and sell your products. You could source your materials from recyclables or in other sustainable ways. You could also hire labor and support fair wagesamong a less-fortunate people group or region of the world in a way that encourages empowerment and employment. Check out these few businesses using their materials and labor to give back:
The Tote Project — This unique online shop sells totes and bags produced by survivors of human trafficking from around the world, providing these women with an opportunity to thrive, earn a living, and empower them to see their worth again.
The Root Collective — Another great online shop that partners with artisans living in poverty around the world by supporting their self-made businesses and even giving portions of their profits back to the nonprofits who provide the artisans with skills training and support.
Caroline Creates — Caroline sources all of the materials for her stationery line from recycled paper, plus gives a portion of her profits each year to conservation, replanting and environmental education programs. She even gives you the option to donate more to similar organizations at checkout.
3. Giving back with knowledge + time
The last way you can give back is a way that you probably don’t notice as much, but can be a great resource for others. Sharing your knowledge, your expertise, and your time could look like a lot of different things — you could host a free workshop teaching your craft to a women’s shelter; you could giveaway free product or services to a group in your community that really needs it; you could volunteer your time to teach a class on how to run a business for an after-school program. This could even look like sharing your trade secrets and best practices in the form of a free blog or community. This category has a lot of options for giving back — get creative and find some interesting ways your business can help those in need. Teaching someone a skill can be just as effective — sometimes more so — than giving them something physical like money.
To wrap up, there are tons of different ways you can use your business to give back, even if you feel like you don’t have the monetary funds to spare. If giving back with your business is something that has been on your mind lately, don’t wait any longer! You’re probably overthinking it :) Pick a cause that you feel strongly about, and decide on an action you can take this month to help support that cause. Whether it’s money, donations, labor, materials, or time, find creative ways to use your business and your influence for good.
For more thoughts and ideas on how you can use your business to give back, check out the book People Over Profit by Dale Partridge, founder of Sevenly.
Download the free giveback action plan
If you need some help getting started implementing a giveback program for your business, download my free Giveback Action Plan and starting putting your ideas into action. Use this quick planner to decide on a way to giveback, who you need to contact to get going, things you need to prep to put your plan in place, how you’ll share it with your audience, and what steps to take to wrap up after you’ve made your donation.
How does Paper + Oats give back?
For select months out of the year, I give a portion of my shop profits to a variety of causes and organizations. I call it P+O Gives Back, and click right here to check out all the charities + causes we've given to in the past, and which ones are coming up this year!