In addition to Intentionally Inspirational, I write for a few other outlets including a neighborhood newspaper called the Santa Clara Weekly. I usually cover human interest stories and one that I covered recently really stuck with me. I met a woman who has made it her mission to make life a little easier for kids who live below the poverty level. It’s something she does on the side in addition to her full-time job.
Last weekend, she along with a large group of family and friends delivered “Christmas” to 12 families. I say Christmas because it wasn’t just presents for the kids but the whole experience. At each home she stopped at, she dropped off presents, a Christmas tree, ornaments, and the promise of Christmas dinner cooked by a local restaurant and delivered on Christmas Eve. For 12 families struggling to make ends meet, it was a massive holiday gift.
During this time of year, I always start thinking about the small things I can do to help. I’m by no means rich but stories like these make me remember that I’m much better off than some of my neighbors. I don’t have much in the way of extra income but I do have other skills and I definitely have time that I would be happy to donate. It got me thinking about whether there’s a way for you as a business owner to do the same. So here are a few ideas I came up with.
Instead of business gifts, consider a charitable donation in someone’s name.
I like this one a lot because it’s a way to say thank you and do good at the same time. Many small business owners buy gifts for their best clients or referral sources. What if this year, instead of a gift, you purchased a charitable donation in the person’s name?
A company like Donors Choose allows you to select a project at a local school and donate money to it. You can also buy gift cards so the person you’re purchasing for can choose the project he wants to donate to. I know a lot of teachers at my son’s school use it to help raise money for large classroom projects that are not always budgeted for by the school or PTA.
Donate unused supplies.
This is a great way to do some good while cleaning up. Take the time to go through your storage or stock and figure out if you’re really using everything you have stored. Is there something you can donate to a local food kitchen, school, homeless shelter, foster home? I know that in my hometown there’s a company called RAFT that collects “trash” from local tech companies and then allows teachers to purchase the items at a reduced rate for use in classroom projects. Suddenly those unused pipet trays and binders have new life.
Make it an office or group activity.
Instead of an office Christmas party, consider spending an evening together giving back. Take a trip to a local soup kitchen or take a day to volunteer to sort food at your local food bank. Find a charitable activity all of your employees can agree on and then spend the day there. If you want to make it a treat, do it on a paid workday. Yes, it will cost you a little money, but I think it will go a long way to building office morale.
Invite an employee over for dinner.
When I started out a career in television news, I worked at a small station in the city of Salinas, California. My co-workers were all just like me, starting out in the business and paying their dues. I was lucky because the station was close to my home, but many of my co-workers came from other parts of the state and other parts of the country. They didn’t have the time or the money to go home for the holidays. An older, much more experienced co-worker realized this and every year she would invite everyone over to her house for Christmas dinner with her and her family. It was an open invitation to make sure everyone had a chance to experience the holiday with family and friends.
Sometimes with all the things going during the holiday season, it’s tough to step back and think about what you can do for someone else. It’s not selfish, just hard. I hope this list gets you thinking and maybe even doing!
Written by Erika Towne