If you polled every entrepreneur in the U.S., nearly 100 percent would say that giving back is important. But if you asked how many of them have philanthropy programs in place, you'd encounter a much lower number. Most would hold that their focus is building the core business and that they don't have the resources to focus on non-revenue drivers, though they wish they did.

Enter Emma Leggat, philanthropy executive who runs CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) at StubHub, the world's largest ticketing marketplace. Leggat believes that a clear, specific, and ongoing CSR program that touches all departments puts the entire team's emphasis on good values. In doing so it drives employee engagement, buy-in to marketing programs, and cultural continuity during workforce and directional changes. For example, StubHub's signature philanthropy program, Rising Stars, supports nonprofits primarily in music education, while at the same time reinforcing the company's fan-centric culture. But beyond these broader benefits, in tying directly back to StubHub's core mission (they sell a lot of concert tickets!), Rising Stars has created a myriad of opportunities for StubHub's direct and tangible business benefit.

But here's the kicker: Leggat says that, while it is clear that philanthropy is essential for big businesses, it might even have greater ROI for small business. Here are a number of practical ways Leggat says a philanthropy program can be a major benefit for small businesses:

1. Driving differentiation

Given similar price and quality, 89% percent of consumers say they would switch brands to one that supports a cause over one that doesn't and 90% say it would make them more loyal. If the cause is a local one, or one that particularly resonates with your customer base, so much the better.

2. Community networking

Small business owners often don't have time to get out of work mode and interact with their peers, but getting out in the community doesn't have to be a big investment of time. The coordination of just a few annual community or volunteer events will connect your business with hundreds of positive, productive members of your community. In many cases, this can be even more cost-effective than traditional promotional activities.

3. Humanizing your brand

With social media playing a vital role in customer engagement for any brand, your charitable giving program can be a source for rich, shareable content as well as an engaging way to humanize your brand. Aligning with a signature cause also puts a stake in the ground in terms of what your brand stands for. Consumers today, especially those engaging with you through social channels, want to know this.

4. Building relationships with community leaders

Philanthropic activities open the doors to connect directly with community leaders and other key influencers. Sowing the seeds for positive relations with these types of stakeholders sooner rather than later is simply good practice.

5. Low-risk test and learn

You don't have to invest a lot of money into your philanthropic endeavors; StubHub has rolled out new products and services to a small population of non-profits first at no cost, providing a safe way to test and learn before a broader roll out.

6. Team camaraderie

Those typical team lunches simply blend into the work day. Gathering your team for a volunteer event is far more memorable.

7. Greater productivity

People (including employees) who give back are proven to be healthier and happier. This includes less absence from work and more productive interaction with customers and colleagues.

Lastly, corporate giving doesn't have to be as costly you might think. If you think creatively about all the assets your business brings to the table, sometimes non-monetary ones can be equally valuable. From lending your facilities to host a non-profit fundraiser or community event, to encouraging your employees to do one or two days of pro bono work per year, to lending logistics, marketing, or technology support, to donating product: you may be surprised at how much good your business can do with assets you already have on hand.

Published on: Jan 26, 2015
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