Make your business part of the community

By Jean Kruse / Guest Editorial

One of the most talked-about issues in business today is corporate social responsibility (CSR), where a company strives to have a positive effect on the public interest.

But CSR is not just for large companies. Small businesses have a long and proud tradition of “making a difference,” particularly on the local level. Many companies encourage their employees to volunteer. Many citizens volunteer without company encouragement because they want to give back to the community or to those less fortunate.

The benefits of community involvement go beyond simply feeling good because you helped a worthy cause. It raises the profile of your business. These activities can also reinforce employee morale, fostering a spirit of teamwork and collaboration that will enhance on-the-job performance.

A good starting point for finding community involvement ideas is your local chamber of commerce. Chambers frequently sponsor events that offer opportunities for advertising or in-kind service donations. And nothing beats the chance to meet and network with fellow small business owners.

Civic groups and charitable organizations are also great sources of community activities. The United Way web site features more than 200 local volunteer opportunities. Local schools have events that need sponsors, as well as career days, student tutoring and mentoring programs and extra-curricular clubs. Consider hosting a “shadow student” who spends the day at your business for a taste of the “real world.”

Don’t worry if you’re a one-person business. You can still be as much a part of your community as your town’s largest employer.

In a recent Corridor Business Journal consulting column, Regenia Bailey pointed out the importance that volunteerism is to nonprofit entities by taking a page from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “imagine what our communities would be like without our nonprofit organizations — no theatres, no art museums, no crisis lines or food pantries, no youth sports organizations.”

In the same CBJ issue, Jessica Johnson urged us to make a new year’s resolution to support arts and culture in the community. Finally, Sue Driscoll, in a guest column in The Gazette, suggests that you choose your volunteer activities wisely by determining what you want to get out of volunteering and to choose an activity about which you are passionate.

If you are passionate about wanting to improve the local economy, then you may want to help new and existing businesses succeed.

SCORE is a nonprofit organization that provides free and confidential mentoring by helping entrepreneurs build profitable businesses. The local SCORE chapter needs volunteers with a variety of skills. The entrepreneurs who seek mentoring from SCORE need many different types of advice and counsel, from marketing, finance, management and budgeting to human resources, accounting and sometimes just as a sounding board. If a business needs mentoring in several of these areas, then we use team counseling.

It is challenging because many times the mentor learns something new from another mentor when counseling a client together, so the whole process adds to the volunteer’s overall knowledge. If you want to give back by helping new or existing businesses, you are eligible to become a SCORE volunteer if you have knowledge about only one of those skill areas or if you have run your own or managed any type of business. New SCORE volunteers receive training and advice from other like-minded experienced volunteers.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for SCORE, you can sign up on our website,, click on “volunteer” to learn more about being a SCORE volunteer and to sign up.



Jean Kruse is a SCORE counselor and SCORE Iowa district president. She operated her own CPA firm for 13 years and in 1988, joined RSM McGladrey, a national firm, where she provided accounting and tax services to small businesses.