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In the UK, a record 2.5 million food bank parcels were given out between 1st April 2020 and 31st March 2021, a 33% increase on the previous year, according to the Trussell Trust. And despite easing Covid restrictions, around 70% of foodbanks, charities and community causes were worried about not having enough food to support those in need over the 2021 festive period, a survey by Neighbourly found. A shocking 92% of 600 charities surveyed said they expected last Christmas to be the busiest ever.
With the cost of living rocketing – inflation has risen to 5.4%, the highest since 1992 – it’s an important time for communities and the businesses within them to come together.
Giving back is something that comes naturally for many independent retailers. “Helping the community is one of our most important values here at Bayley & Sage,” Andrea Araujo, communications officer at the London-based deli business, told Speciality Food. It’s one of many businesses that have recently partnered with a charity in order to give back in some way, however big or small.
Rob Amar, MD of RH Amar, which has donated more than £1.5m to 70 charities over the past decade, agrees. “Put simply, it feels like the right thing to do – but more than that, it is an extension and reflection of the values we hold as a business.” As well as being part of a founder’s personal mission, partnering with causes can boost a business’ internal culture, increasing staff loyalty. In fact, a survey by Score revealed that 93% of employees who volunteer are happy with their employer. “We know that it’s important to our colleagues, who not only help us choose the charities we support each year, but who also participate in our Employee Volunteer Days – spending time helping charities close to their hearts,” Rob added.
Giving to a charity or cause is good for business too – especially in a world where consumers are in search of places to shop that match their own values. Research by Nielsen found that instead of donating money to causes they care about, shoppers under the age of 40 prefer to give back through where they shop.
These desires to support communities from a grassroots perspective have already driven the local shopping movement over the last two years, but small businesses, whether retailers, wholesalers or producers, can also increase loyalty among their ‘tribe’ by aligning themselves with a cause that’s important to them on a personal level, such as tree planting or supporting a local food bank.
While attracting new customers is hardly the reason any small business decides to give back, it’s something that your business should certainly be shouting about. “During the last few years more consumers have become aware of the power of choosing where they spend their cash,” food consultant Jane Milton recently told Speciality Food. “If you don’t talk about your business values and how that shapes your business, is there a danger that your potential customers will think you have not given it any thought or commitment?”
It’s certainly a question worth considering as small businesses are, in fact, big givers. Research by Score revealed that SMEs donated 250% more than bigger businesses to local charities and community causes, and 85% of customers had a more positive image of a business if they give to charity. The traditional season of giving may be over, but for small businesses, building community spirit through volunteer work, collaborations and charitable donations offers a year-round opportunity to become a force for good.