“The best time to begin thinking about how to engage with your community is when you initially design your business. You do not need to be an established, profitable company to either start or increase your involvement with nonprofits and other community organizations. Starting your business giving activities early allows you to build community investment into your organizational values, culture, and operations so you don’t have to “turn the Titanic” later.”

Sue Hyatt, Founder, Big Purpose Big Impact, Denver, CO

“I think getting involved [with nonprofits] is like working out. It’s always hard to go that first time, but once you get started and begin to feel the benefits of regular participation, you can’t imagine how you lived without it. I hear very often: ‘I’m too busy to volunteer,’ ‘I don’t have the time,’ ‘I wish I had the time to do it.’ Really, these are just excuses. If it’s important to you, you’ll make the time to do it. And once you make the time and see the rewards, it will become a part of your life.”

Mark Berzins, Owner, Little Pub Company, Denver, CO Tweet

Business philanthropy “is a relatively simple thing, but it is a very powerful action. It sends a huge message into your particular community of interest that says, ‘We are more than just an earnings machine. We are a partner with you. We are in it with you. We care.’ And that makes a difference.”

Aaron Azare, Executive Vice President, Colorado State
Bank and Trust, Denver, CO

“We started worthy cause marketing as a way to sell our wine because we didn’t have money to do anything else. We couldn’t afford to put ads in the newspaper, magazines, radio, television. But [it worked] so we kept it that way as time went on and it’s still being done that way.”

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, Co-Founders, Barefoot Wine, Modesto, CA Tweet

You don’t have to be a big company before you can do much in the community. Even as a small company, there are many ways you can support community organizations. The smaller businesses around here have made a lot of difference.”

Chip Bair, Owner, Beau Jo’s Pizza, Idaho Springs, CO

Getting the word out is not to just toot your own horn. It has the key goal [for us] of further engaging people: here’s what we are doing and what you can do to help keep it going. It’s all in that word ‘engaging’ as opposed to talking at people. You have to make what you do visible.”

Tracy Ulmer, Director of Promotions and Community Relations, The Denver Post, Denver, CO Tweet

“We know we receive brand recognition and good will from our community investments. These are two items that we can’t quantify on our balance sheet but which differentiate us from the other players in the marketplace. If we are in a competitive situation with a firm that wants to use a company that has a presence in the local community, we are going to win every time as a result. I think businesses buy based on name recognition; if you can see that the firm you are working with has a lot at stake in their community, then they are probably a better fit, a better corporate citizen, and also probably a better provider of goods and services than the competitor.”

Ron Brumbarger, President & CEO, BitWise Solutions, Indianapolis, IN Tweet

“I am a firm believer in the power of business. Business is the strongest, fastest change agent that we have. Businesses need to become more sustainable and create donations to support their local communities—not just their economies. Everybody’s got to start working together across the lines to really spike this up as opposed to everybody just doing their own thing.”

Matt Bauer, President and Co-Founder, BetterWorld Telecom, Reston, VA Tweet

“It’s good for any business to have ties to their community. The community supports the business so I think it is only fair that the business supports the community. Once our customers get to know us, they understand that we are genuinely concerned about our local community as well as the communities of the coffee farmers that we work with. So it just makes sense to do it.”

Andy Lambert, Sales Manager, Peace Coffee, Minneapolis, MN Tweet

“The [community] work you are doing has to align with your company’s core values… If you are going to say you support women, then you better do it in your backyard first. It has to align with your values and it has to be real. It can’t just be a marketing thing and your people have to be passionate about it.”

Niki Leondakis, President, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, San Francisco, CA Tweet

“I think the biggest benefit to Aveda from our community involvement to date has been internal, with our employees and our network of spas, as they hear the stories about all the things we are doing. It helps with employee recruitment: ‘Everybody wants to work for Aveda.’ People are really proud to be employees at Aveda because they know we are doing such great stuff. Employee retention is also great. People see it in their promotion and bonus opportunities. If they are serving the mission of the company, that’s recognized as a good thing. So it’s a very positive reinforcement.”

Mary T’Kach, Former Executive Director of Environmental Sustainability, Aveda, Blaine, MN Tweet

“Business is where wealth is created in our society. There is no more fundamental institution in our society, in terms of wealth creation and distribution, than the business world. So, we’re trying to build an institutional framework that captures that power of the marketplace and puts it into service to the community.”

Mike Hannigan, Founder, Give Something Back Office Supplies, Oakland, CA Tweet

“Community involvement really does add to the bottom line. It relates to relationship and trust building with key customers and people you are trying to work with. It does matter to people. With some strategic focus and some thought put behind how you are investing your resources, the impact is just huge for what you put into it. That’s been proven time and time again with the number of different companies who are doing it.”

Tracy Ulmer, Director of Promotions and Community Relations, The Denver Post, Denver, CO Tweet

“We are tempted to do too much. There are thousands and thousands of organizations; a lot of them are very good. It’s really hard because we get a lot of great letters from organizations asking for support. We often have to say ‘no.’ It is hard to go backwards if you start donating and then say this year we can’t because we’re doing this or that. Be careful at the start to do what you can without overshooting. Think long term.”

Gary Erickson, Founder, Clif Bar & Company, Emeryville, CA