One of the most amazing things as a small business owner is the freedom to make decisions that you feel good about. Ask the owner of Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, PA. He worked a desk job on Wall Street and decided one day that he needed a change. So, he opened a pizza parlor in Philly (how's that for a change?).
At the suggestion of a customer, the little fresh, hot pizza shop started a Pay-it-Forward program. Pre-buy a slice and stick a Post-it Note on the wall. Those who are short on cash, homeless, or otherwise in need of hot food can redeem a note for a pre-paid slice.
It started with one note, and word spread. Today the little shop is now a colorful tapestry of Post-it Notes with uplifting or friendly messages, each worth a slice of pizza for a patron less fortunate.
The Big Impact of Small Business Philanthropy
An American Express and Chronicle of Charity study found that three-quarters of small businesses donate an average of 6% of their profits to charity, and they donate twice as much per employee than a larger business, according to a study by Oregon State University. And while local communities and charities benefit from small business' goodwill, a fair amount of good comes back to the small business owner as well.
American Express Open Forum describes a few scenarios, including the owner of a mechanic shop in a small Tennessee town. A local school band director was in desperate need of major repairs to the school's van. Without wheels, the marching band--the town's pride--couldn't travel to games and competitions. Most students aren't college-bound, but a band members receive scholarships each year. The mechanic arranged to get parts at a steep discount, and further discounted his services so that the school got the repairs for a few hundred bucks, instead of thousands. The band got back on the road, a few seniors had opportunities for scholarships, and the mechanic received a lot of positive attention for his contribution.
Or how about the owner of a manufacturing plant in a Chicago suburb. Surrounding his plant was a near-vacated neighborhood, all but abandoned in the foreclosure crisis of 2008. To improve his surroundings, he began to buy houses and renovate them, improving the home values of those residents who stayed. In return, the residents formed a neighborhood watch program to help keep an eye on the owner's property and equipment. He's since bought and renovated over 100 houses and revitalized an entire community and received more than a little press for his endeavors.
The benefits of positive public relations are many. In the most basic sense, PR is third party coverage of a good or service. When you advertise your product, service or brand, you're building awareness based on your naturally positive perception of your business. Good press that comes from an outside source--whether media or word-of-mouth coverage--builds a credibility you can't get through straight advertising.
Beyond Good PR
In the case of Rosa's Fresh Pizza, the Pay-it-Forward program doesn't feel like a PR move, rather a true act of kindness. In an Upworthy interview, the pizza shop owner, Mason Wartman, describes a homeless man who came in regularly for pizza. Then one day he stopped coming. Wartman worried what had become of him, until that man came back weeks later and pre-bought a slice for someone else. He'd gotten a job and wanted to return the favor. And that is worth much more than a clip on YouTube any day.
What small or large act of philanthropy has your small business participated in that's been a benefit to your community and your business? Do you believe in the mantra "do good, and good things will come to you?"