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Business and Service: Supporting a Community Sustainably

This time of year, charity institutions are more active in holding fundraisers for gift-giving and soup kitchens. If you have a small company looking to join this fanfare to do your community social responsibility work, instead of giving dole-outs, you might want to help establish a more sustainable initiative. Share your business skills so that the families would be able to augment their income instead of waiting for help.

Managing a business is tiring, especially if it’s a small startup where you have to look into everything to ensure they’re all working according to what you want. A community business would be different since responsibilities would be shared. Here are a few things you could support.

Establishing an organization

Instead of having individuals form a corporation, it would be good to establish an organization instead. The organization should become a legal entity with bylaws, duly registered to conduct business. Among the benefits of an organization is that a problem with a member will not affect the entire operation. The member could easily withdraw. Also, management will be rotational and the control of the business will not be monopolized. If the bylaws of the organization are carefully set, this would eliminate the possibilities of corruption.

You shouldn’t randomly choose a community to support. You could go to established charitable organizations or missionaries and ask them for suggestions and advice as to where you could do your work.

Property ownership

Help them ensure the ownership of properties and capital is legally held by the organization. Foundations or big institutions might award properties to the organization. Guide them with the legalities of acquiring titles, hiring a professional land surveyor, and registering for tax. For people who are not familiar with business procedures, processing all the necessary documents might be daunting. It would be a great help if someone who has gone through all of these will be able to assist them.

Develop a comprehensive marketing plan

The problem with many community businesses is that they limit their market to their surrounding neighborhoods. They go to fairs, Sunday markets, street displays. But these venues don’t provide sustained demand for their products. What they need is a strong network of clienteles. You can help them plan their marketing strategy by identifying the institutions that might want to regularly purchase products from them. Introduce them to establishments that might take on consignments. For example, if they produce backyard vegetables, you could help them connect to restaurants or groceries.

One thing with a large marketing scale, however, is that the community must be able to assure that their production should be scalable. They should be able to meet the orders once they grow their new network. Otherwise, initial contacts without follow up deliveries could just go to waste.


Policies and rules regarding management

Business management, including human resources and financial management, is something that community organizations normally don’t have a background on. A crash course on management and basics of bookkeeping would be very helpful to communities. This is something that even charity foundations don’t offer. They might give funds for organizations to start businesses, but there is no guidance on how to sustainably run the business.

Assisting them in crafting their policies, especially in financial transactions, is even more important than giving them capital which they might mismanage in the long run. If they could afford one, they can be connected to an external accountant who could manage their books for them.

Initial business production plan

To start them off, you could help them in crafting their initial plan. Help them with their production calendar for a year, setting realistic targets, and the strategies to achieve them. Introduce them to an efficient monitoring and evaluation plan so that they could adjust and improve their operations. Offer to counsel them in their first year of operation and help them do a mid-year assessment.

This would lay the foundation for their business, so they need someone with a strong business sense. It would be great if the first year could be a mentoring period between you and their organization.

‘Giving back’ for businesses, especially big corporation, have become synonymous with donating to charities. It’s very simple because all you need to do is hand out a check and you don’t have to worry as to where that money goes to. Unfortunately, this practice has become a milking cow for unscrupulous organizations that give mediocre dole-outs with no intention of really uplifting communities in need. It’s not a one-time dinner that a starving family needs, but a sustainable income.

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