During the holiday season, many people look to give a little or a lot to help those in need.
Several organizations also solicit business during the holidays, and year round, to give back to the community. Should a business give and how does giving help a company grow?
Les Ledger, a professor in the Central Texas College business administration department, helped the Killeen Daily Herald answer those questions.
Ledger has taught a wide range of business courses for the past 20 years.
Formerly, he managed and owned businesses in Copperas Cove, served on numerous area boards, foundations and community civic groups such as the Association of the U.S. Army, Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce and CTC Foundation. He also has served as president of the Metroplex Hospital Foundation, Texas Retail Association and Home Furnishings International Association and chairman of Copperas Cove United Way.
Ledger has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas State University and master’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin.
Why is it important for local businesses to give back to the community?
It’s important because it’s your community. You need to support the place you live and work. You need to give back in return for the support the community has given you. You’re sharing the company’s financial resources with the people who have made you profitable. It can be a good business decision, and it can be an act that promotes goodwill.
I always felt I had certain obligations to my community to give back because of the local support my business received from the community. Noblesse oblige, I guess or, as we call it now, social responsibility.
What benefits do businesses get from giving back?
Businesses get customer loyalty. You can also attract new customers. There’s good free publicity to be gotten for doing the right thing. Great networking opportunities are out there.
Volunteer work can be very rewarding and addictive, too. Sometimes you get to do very unique things you wouldn’t do in your business, but as a volunteer you’re on the inside. For instance, as a volunteer with a local police group, you’d be exposed to experiences unlike you’d ordinarily find. I’ve seen people in all kinds of businesses mentor children, help organize gala events and spearhead United Way campaigns.
What are some various ways local businesses can give back to the community? Do some of those have greater benefits or costs that can affect the business?
(They can) contribute funds, volunteer personal hours, provide time for employees to help, organize events, recruit volunteers and serve as a resource on community assets and talent and the list goes on and on.
All have costs. A local business owner must be careful about too much time away from the business. Depending on its size, a business must choose what to support financially. There’s only so much time and money that can be tapped. Of course, too, if the project is controversial, a big decision must be made. Should you support that bond to build parks? Should you assist a political candidate? Businesses can’t afford to build ill will and lose customers. Sometimes, we have to let others carry the ball. But, there are so many good causes out there it’s very easy to find a project that fits your community’s desires and your social responsibility.
Is there a time when giving back to the community can hurt the business?
Absolutely. Good causes and positive cash flow don’t come at the same time. It’s embarrassing to say, “Folks, the well’s dry right now.” Brick-front businesses are often hit up over and over again. It’s hard to say no, but your business must come first. You don’t help your community by going out of business. And, again, businesses must be careful about controversy. Know the costs before stepping out on the limb.
Since it is the season for giving, is it better for businesses to do a larger effort once a year around the holidays or do smaller efforts year-round?
It’s good to give whenever you can. That said, need doesn’t just occur at Christmas, so I’d recommend budgeting for year-round giving.
However, if your business likes to give food around Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is your giving time. Although, that food pantry might get a little thin in August.