In between consumer and big business, small business is the neglected layer, says Sharon Melamed. She’d like to see that change.

small businesses charities

“Small business owners are generally approachable, they make decisions quickly, and they don’t require much paperwork.”

Small businesses are said to be the lifeblood of the Australian economy, but they barely figure in the marketing strategy of not-for-profits. As a small business owner, I believe this is a missed opportunity.

It’s true, large enterprises have structured charity partnership programs, offering invaluable cash support, matching programs and the opportunity to market to thousands of employees – their support is unquestionable. But it’s a highly competitive space, and small charities often find big business is just too hard a nut to crack. Many charities also have direct-to-consumer marketing programs to solicit donations – whether through telefundraising, email campaigns or kiosks. But in between consumer and big business is the neglected layer – small business.

There are 2.3 million small businesses in Australia and many of them, just like my business, Matchboard, have large social media followings or databases. In fact we have 20,000 social media followers, 4,400 newsletter subscribers and thousands of website visitors each month.

While cash-poor, many small businesses are database-rich. And therein lies the opportunity.

It was 2018 when two people I knew died of cancer and a friend was fundraising for medical treatment. As a business owner, I realised there’s more I could and should be doing to give a voice to the many incredible not-for-profits, who work so hard to improve our lives.

Matchboard set up a ‘Small Business for Small Charities’ initiative, offering pro bono marketing to a different charity each month. Two years later, we’ve now helped 26 charities achieve exposure across all our online channels. For example, this month we’re highlighting the wonderful work of Beddown to support the homeless. There is simply no reason why other small business owners can’t do the same.

Business owners and entrepreneurs are on the whole wanting to make a contribution, they just rarely get approached by charities for support.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a rise in entrepreneurs with a social conscience. Social enterprises themselves are a fast-growing segment. Small charities have an opportunity to approach their small-size counterparts in the private sector for a meaningful partnership for both sides. Business owners and entrepreneurs are on the whole wanting to make a contribution, they just rarely get approached by charities for support. Once the case is put to them that you are not asking them to write a big cheque, and that a partnership can be as basic as including a blurb about the charity in their company newsletter and on their Facebook and LinkedIn pages, rejection should be rare.

Small business owners are generally approachable, they make decisions quickly, and they don’t require much paperwork.

Further, the more small businesses that adopt this style of partnership with not-for-profits, the more of a groundswell movement will be created which amplifies the voice and important work of so many causes. Let this become the ‘next normal’!

Sharon Melamed is the founder and Managing Director of Matchboard, a B2B matching platform. She was named Suncorp Innovator of the Year 2018 and Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 at the Women in ICT Awards.

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