Making a difference in your community

How many of you are personally invested in the success of the community in which you live? I assume you like quality roads, schools, and the other various things our tax dollars pay for. Maybe you or someone you know relies on the services of a nonprofit organization or charity. We’re all invested in our community’s success because we either reside or work here, and so much of what we do is funded by either tax dollars or the generosity of a local business.

My purpose today is to share with you how we can make our community better by changing our mindset before making a decision about where to spend money. Your town is greatly affected by how well or poor local businesses are faring. First, I’m going to share the problem, then I’ll tell you how you can be a part of the solution.

Problem: For every one hundred dollars you spend at a national chain, the community only sees $43 in return. When you spend that same amount at a local business, $68 turns back around. When small businesses are supported, which means the community becomes a customer, we all benefit. You’re not adding to the wealth of an already wealthy corporation. With a local small businesses, you’re helping parents send their daughter to ballet lessons. I’m certainly not suggesting we boycott Big Box stores, I am, however, encouraging you to change your mind set to Think. Local. First.

Here’s how you as a customer benefit from thinking local first:

Small local businesses need a competitive edge. They can’t afford to do their customers wrong. Most small businesses can’t afford the high price of effective public relation and advertising services, so they rely on satisfied customers repeating their business and also referring their family and friends to use them. Customer referrals are priceless, and tells business owners that they’re doing it right.

In today’s world of social media, businesses rely heavily on having a positive presence. More than ever, customers are able to openly communicate with their friends and even the company itself about how pleased or unhappy they are with a product or business. Small businesses are forced to think outside of the box in terms of customer service and making sure that their customers have a positive experience.

For instance, let’s say I’m going to a child’s birthday party. We’ve budgeted $20 for the child’s present. I can go to Target and pick up a standard toy, and hope they don’t already have it. Or, I can go to a mom and pop store in downtown where they’ll help me pick out a unique toy and they’ll wrap it beautifully for me. I’m still only spending $20. I walk into that party like a rock star all while having helped the business owners and the community.

You might wonder how the community benefits. Studies show that small businesses donate 250% more than larger businesses to non-profits and community causes. This is a good reminder of the long term effects of using local businesses. Think about the kids, homeless, elderly, and families less fortunate that are reached with increased funds.

My father has owned his own heating and cooling business for the past 20 years. This year, to celebrate the 20th anniversary, he gave away a brand new heat pump and air conditioning unit. All year he promoted the giveaway, encouraging community members to register, and last week he gave it to the most deserving person imaginable: a widow who’s been suffering through the hottest days and the coldest days without an adequate heating and cooling system. She was using something like kerosene.

Also, until recently, you weren’t taxed for items bought online, but states and cities have suffered as a result of your online shopping because your tax dollars disappeared. Think about that next time you run over a pot hole! You can’t complain about how poorly your town is doing if you do nothing to be a part of the solution.

Solution: You can have a meaningful connection to your community by:

  • Changing your mindset to think local first. When it’s your turn to pick the restaurant, choose to patron a local business. Find out if there are a locally owned businesses that cater to your needs and hobbies. Shift 10 percent of spending from national chains.
  • Volunteer with organizations that keep their money here and helps people in your community. Deliver meals to homebound individuals. You don’t need to join or start an organization to do so. You can teach someone how to read or get a job, collect toiletries for the homeless, or simply participating in school fundraisers.
  • Have a sense of ownership by sharing the positive aspects of your community with others. If your town is unique, celebrate that!

If you have any additional information or would like to share an interesting comment, please feel free. I’m not a business expert, but I’m interested in the topic so I welcome your thoughts!

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