Four ways small business can support community

John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods, writes, “A healthy society rests on three pillars: business, government and civil society, or non-profits. Each has a distinct and important role to play, and all three need to work together synergistically to create the most value for society.”

Do you view your small business as part of one of the pillars of society?

This is an important question.

Our society’s social fabric is fraying at the edges. Even with record low levels of unemployment, we see increases in violence, a large number of homeless individuals and families living on the streets, and stubbornly high levels of poverty. There is a sense of unease and uncertainty about the future.

Yes, a small business’ primary contribution in developing a healthy society is creating jobs by providing a product or service of value to an end customer. This in turn generates tax revenue to spend on the public good.

Unfortunately, the job creator role is no longer sufficient. It is also no longer enough for a small business just to sponsor a local sports team or donate money to a local nonprofit.

Our challenges require much more from the small-business community. It requires that you see your business as needing to do your small, yet critical part to create a vibrant society.

What else can you do to support your community?

Consider taking these steps:

Increase employee engagement: Strongly encourage your employees to volunteer and actively support community events. Infuse this support into your company’s culture and express to your staff why this is important to you and the company they work for.

Work with your employees to identify a couple of nonprofits to target for your support. They will appreciate being a part of this process and likely be more engaged in their work.

Partner with other small businesses: Connect other small businesses (even competitors) to team with your company on community events. Small businesses working together to support important community initiatives is a terrific way to demonstrate that we are all in this together to strengthen where we live and work.

Join a local nonprofit board of directors: Share your business expertise and your passion for a particular nonprofit’s mission. Non-profits are often looking for board members. If there isn’t an open spot available with an organization that interests you, let them know of your continued interest.

Provide free meeting space: Renting meeting space can be expensive for a nonprofit organization, especially if their office space is limited. If your business has available space to host meetings, consider offering this space for free to help facilitate these important conversations and connections.

Mackey is right on the mark when he writes, “Resources are limited; creativity is unlimited.” 

It is going to take all of us working together to develop creative solutions to make our society healthier, more vibrant and provide opportunity for all.

Pat Sisneros is the Vice President of College Services at Everett Community College. Please send your comments to

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