Budget for Community Support


Every smart business allocates an annual budget for pro-bono work, sponsorship and donations. They also carefully select causes that are a good fit for their business and customers.  

One of my esteemed author and small business colleagues Andrew Griffiths recently posted this short video with some great advice reminding us all to value our time and knowledge and think twice before giving it away for free.

Thanks for sharing Andrew.  This immediately reminded me of my own experiences and advice I regularly give to new business owners.

When I first started working for myself 15 years ago I consciously shed my many community roles and did so without apology.  For a start, I’d done over and beyond my tour of duty, it was time for others to step in.  Secondly, I needed to invest in myself for a change. 

Planning for success requires a lot of creative thinking space, time and energy, as does developing relationships with new customers and clients. At the end of the day, putting food on the table and paying the bills relied on me generating my own income and this had to be my top priority.

In small rural communities this is much harder to do when everyone is expected to contribute.  The generosity of local businesses is constantly relied upon to financially support local sporting clubs and charities as well as donating expertise and equipment for festivals and special events. 

However, as I explained to my daughter who struggled to say no when she started out in a small retail business in a country town; there is always a limit to this support no matter the size of your business.  Timing is also crucial when it comes to cash flow and budgets.

Every smart business allocates an annual budget for pro-bono work, sponsorship and donations. They also carefully select causes that are a good fit for their business and customers.   

Being comfortable saying “no” is knowing that you can’t support every cause no matter how worthy it is.  The health of you and your business has to come first.  If you’re not successful then how can you help others?

Established businesses are able to share their successes and develop great goodwill as a result but it is unreasonable to have that same level of expectation when starting out, undertaking an expansion, or when the economy is shaky.

Even when it is just your time being donated, every minute you are directing your energies away from your business equates to lost opportunity for growth and revenue. This has implications for your employees and customers, not just you.

I once asked a very successful businessman in the region what he considered his greatest contribution to the community to be.  His reply was simple.  Despite being highly involved in various sporting clubs and community groups over the years he believed that his greatest contribution to the community was to employ people allowing them to live in rural Victoria and for their family members to support local schools, sporting clubs and other businesses.

After getting my business established I started saying yes again, donating my time and dollars to a few select community groups and charities.  It feels really good and adds value to my business but I have no regret for having to stick to a budget and say no when I need to.

Want my advice?  Feel comfortable saying no and cherish the times when you can say yes.

KERRY ANDERSON:  A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia.  She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE 

CATCH UP WITH KERRY IN PERSONDuring August Kerry is sharing her knowledge on entrepreneurship as part of the Small Business Festival in Melbourne (8 Aug), Geelong (19 Aug) and Bendigo (31 Aug).  READ MORE