As a small business owner, I often spend my days alone, working from home. I’ve written before on that special kind of loneliness.
But in recent months, as I’ve been looking for more ways to stay connected, I’ve been thinking more about how I can pair those efforts with a “giving back” mentality. Rather than just donating some money or hosting a fundraiser, I wanted to get hands-on.
This is something that any creative with a specialized skill can do, too. By donating time, work, or expertise to a good cause, giving back empowers non-profit organizations to do more and serve more. That means that even if you don’t have a ton of spare cash to donate, you can still make a major impact. And I think that’s pretty great. So, how can you give back?
Share Your Specialized Skills
Many charities and nonprofit organizations are resource-strapped - and they don’t have the funds to hire out specialized help.
I can tell you firsthand from my experience working for a hunger-relief organization that when it comes to nonprofits, most employees are actually doing the jobs of two or three people. It’s just what you do. As a result, nonprofit staff can handle a lot of different tasks, but they don’t often get to take a deep dive into any one specific area of their jobs and soak up lots of knowledge on it.
While a non-profit organization may have a general marketing person who handles a wide variety of high-level tasks, they might not have a skilled photographer, graphic designer, or an email marketing specialist.
That’s where you come in. By offering up your unique skills to an organization, you’re giving them access to expert insight and talent they wouldn’t normally have. Reach out and see if they could use a helping hand within your area of expertise - there’s a good chance the answer is yes.
Amy Lipner, a freelance copywriter, shared her specialized skills with an environmental organization that needed help refreshing programming materials. She explained that not only did it make her feel good to share her expertise, it also produced the highest program participation rate the organization had ever had.
Teach What You Know
Another route you can take to support a cause is to teach what you know. Offering up your time and sharing your knowledge with others is a simple way to help. Consider sharing your expertise with the people running the charity and the populations they support by:
Teaching workshops. Putting together a lesson plan helps to codify what matters to you, and attendees will learn from your real-world work experience. If you’re a writer, for example, you could teach writing workshops that help attendees become better communicators. Win-win.
Being a mentor. Mentoring is rewarding because it helps you realize where your training and leadership strengths lie, while at the same time it helps your mentee learn from your experiences (and better prepare for challenges). They get a go-to person for troubleshooting help, and you get to share your valuable insight with someone who needs it.
Writing about lessons learned. Writing down lessons learned is an easy way to reflect on progress and growth you’ve made as a creative business owner - and it’s a powerful way to share your expertise, too. If you’re more introverted and aren’t a fan of one-on-ones or group presentations, think about writing down what you know on a specific topic and turning it into a helpful eBook or PDF that you can share with organizations you want to support (for free).
Teaching is something I’ve tried to implement in my own daily life: I’ve been sharing my writing expertise through free résumé-writing classes at the local library. Every few weeks, I host a 30-minute class where I go over some of the best practices and review and critique attendees’ résumés. It’s a minimal time commitment for me, yet it has a big impact for those attending.
Volunteer Your Time
Many times, charities or organizations just need volunteers. They need people who can help with everything from events, to daily tasks, and special projects. Even though the cause might not need your specific skill set right away, offering up your time can still help in a big, big way.
Plus, by getting involved as a general volunteer, you’ll have a foot in the door with the organization you’re supporting - and you’ll be among the first to know when your skills are needed.
It’s OK to reach out to a few different charities and pick your volunteer activities based on what works best for your schedule. The last thing you want is to feel over-extended or resentful about your volunteering efforts. Be realistic about your availability, interest level, and what’s the best fit for you.
Gather Like-Minded Creatives for a Good Cause
If you’re up for it, don’t be afraid to think big. By gathering a group of like-minded creatives within your niche, you could put together an event that helps support a cause by raising both awareness and funds.
Whether it’s a small group that shares a similar skill or a large gathering that brings people together from far and wide, this form of giving back is the scaled up version of making an impact.
One example comes from copywriter Kayla Hollatz, who self-funded and planned a 100% charitable business conference to support sex-trafficking survivors. By leveraging her skills and bringing in others for a special event, she was able to raise nearly $5,000 for the cause. And as a bonus, the media coverage around the event put an even bigger spotlight on the non-profit.
Run a Sale and Donate the Profits
If you run a creative business selling physical products, another idea to consider is to run a sale and support a cause with the proceeds. This can be something you do once a year, or it can become a core part of your business where every month you donate a percentage of sales to a cause.
The benefit of this approach is that while it raises funding for an organization in need, it also presents an opportunity to put them in the spotlight within your marketing around the sale. You can send emails that outline the charity’s mission and impact and showcase their work on your brand’s social media. All of this helps the non-profit garner more awareness and advocates around their work.
Take a look at The Empowered Peach. The company donates $1 from every purchase to Planned Parenthood - this way, every sale helps support a cause the brand cares about, and buyers know that they’re making a thoughtful purchase.
Giving Back Feels Good
It’s easy to slip into a creative rut or to feel like you’ve been sucked into the daily grind - it happens to the best of us. If work (or life) has got you down, an easy way to climb out of your slump is by giving back.
I was recently talking to a friend about how I often feel very negative about the world in general right now. From daily news reports to ugliness on social media, the “everything is bad” message really gets me down.
He told me that to combat this, I needed to find a way to make the world a little bit better and more positive on my own. He encouraged me to think of ways I could make a positive impact and change the daily lives of others, however small it may be. Because it matters. And because it’s better than sitting back and feeling helpless.
Now, I’m challenging you to do the same. Find a way to give back - both for yourself and for the benefit of others.
Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer specializing in ecommerce and software. She also writes for publications like Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, and HuffPost.