When you look at your business, how do you measure success? What documents would you reference when asked to value your brand? In most cases, balance sheets, revenue reports, and sales figures are spouted out in an effort to justify brand valuations; however, there's more to your business than just dollars and cents.

The Importance of Giving Back

The chief aim for most businesses is to financially profit by satisfying a pervasive consumer pain point. This is the very definition of business. You identify a need or demand in the marketplace, develop a product that satisfies that need or demand, and scale operations for maximum profitability. As a result, consumers are satisfied and you become wealthy.

While this all sounds great, couldn't there be something more than simply making customers happy and becoming rich? Well, in fact, there is. As many brands and entrepreneurs have discovered, giving back to your local community is incredibly rewarding--both personally and financially.

First and foremost, by giving back your brand can drive positive change. Depending on the organizations and people you choose to work with, you can help make your community a better place. And while this should be the ultimate goal of your charitable endeavors, it's hard to ignore that giving back also positively impacts your organization.

As Kayla Matthews of Triple Pundit writes, "A community-minded business will reap benefits from its charitable mindset, including positive PR, high employee morale and improved connections--all areas that can aid in long-term profits." Perhaps this is part of the reason that business philanthropy grew for 64 percent of organizations between 2010 and 2013.

As Matthews mentions, a brand's decision to give back to the community affords the company a number of tangible organizational benefits. Let's quickly touch on the ones she mentions before delving into specific ways your brand can take action.

Positive PR.
High employee morale.
Improved connections.

As previously mentioned, giving back to the community isn't all about growing your business. There are plenty of personal benefits, as well. However, in the context of growing a brand, it's hard to ignore benefits such as these.

4 Ways Your Brand Can Give Back

Most businesses understand the value of giving back. The question isn't about whether or not charitable giving should be a priority, but rather how to go about giving back. Well, let's briefly examine some ideas that you may be able to use as catalysts for important conversations within your organization.

Align Your Brand with a Charity

One of the best strategies for giving back is to align your brand with an established charity. The benefit here is that you're simply a partner. You don't have to spend a lot of time brainstorming ideas and leading initiatives. You simply pledge your money and resources to helping an existing charity carry out its goals.

Over time, if you stay committed to the same charity, those within the organization will come to associate your brand with everything the charity does. This can be a positive thing, but also comes with some risk. If the charity ever makes poor choices, these decisions could harm your name. As a result, you need to carefully research any charity you choose to align your brand with.

Sponsor Events or Teams

Another popular strategy for giving back involves sponsoring local community events or youth teams. This is a low cost way to gain visibility and support a group that needs outside help.

The best place to start is with your business. Ask your employees whether they have any causes they support, or have a child who plays a -*+sport and needs a team sponsor. There are ample opportunities for local sponsorship, so definitely look around for the right one.

Offer Skills to Those in Need

Some businesses don't have enough flexibility in their budgets to give considerable amounts of money to local community causes. If this sounds familiar, don't worry. There are plenty of other opportunities to give back without breaking the bank.

One of the best options is to offer skills to those in need. For example, if your company offers IT services to big businesses, maybe you could hold a free training class for those in the community who are interested in acquiring basic computer skills. This is something that would be very easy and low cost for your business, but would quickly help establish community ties.

Give Employees an Annual Stipend

Maybe your business has a large budget and is fiscally able to make contributions, but doesn't know how to allocate the money for best use. Well, don't be afraid to get creative. One really neat idea is to break the budget up into individual stipends for employees. These employees can then contribute the money to different causes, organizations, or ideas.

For example, let's say your business has $10,000 set aside for charitable contributions. If you have 25 employees, that would mean each employee gets roughly $400. One employee may choose to sponsor an event under your brand's name. Another may decide to give $400 to the local homeless shelter. Five other employees may band together and use their $2,000 to help a single mother buy a car. The possibilities are endless.

This strategy is becoming more popular and allows brands to spread themselves out and invest in high-touch relationships within the community. Discuss this option with your board and see if it could work for your organization.

The Dual Benefits of Giving Back

Giving time, talent, and treasure back to your local community is one of the most valuable investments a brand can make. Ultimately, the various benefits can be boiled down into two different categories. The primary benefit of giving back is that you're able to positively impact those around you. By driving change and supporting those in need, you help strengthen your community in a powerful way.

The secondary benefit is that the community begins to associate your brand with generosity and support. This allows your brand to be seen in a new light and positively impacts your success down the road.

As we start a new year, there's no better time for your business to brainstorm and discuss new ways it can give back to the community. You may be surprised to learn how rewarding these decisions can be--both now and in the future.

Published on: Jan 6, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.