Small Companies Can Make Big Differences

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm

By Steven Chamberlin, for SBT

It doesn’t take a big company to make a big impact on the community. Companies of all sizes can start and benefit from corporate responsibility programs, as corporate responsibility is now another metric by which employees, customers, investors and others evaluate a company.

Research shows that a company’s corporate citizenship efforts can influence the answers to some of the questions prospective clients or employees might ask themselves. Is this a business where I want to work? Would I recommend their products or services to others? Positive answers to these questions can set your company apart from your competition.

Nonprofit organizations such as schools, hospitals, religious organizations and social services agencies make up the majority of C.G. Schmidt’s client base, so supporting their efforts is a priority for our company. However, in the past, our non-client giving had a random approach. So, we recently implemented a more targeted approach to better leverage our philanthropic efforts.

After analyzing our past giving history and interests, including the number of requests and the amount of funding provided, we considered our business goals and gathered employee and community input. We then established three objectives for our community relations program: Support our clients’ missions; support organizations that serve the "underserved" in our community; and lead by example and encourage giving by developing a community relations program that serves as a model for other small to medium-sized businesses.

Getting Started

Most companies would like to support their communities, but don’t know where to start. As part of our lead-by-example objective, we meet with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to share our experiences and provide advice.

In developing our program, we found the Donors Forum of Wisconsin’s "Creating a Giving Program: A Guide for Small and Mid-sized Companies," to be especially helpful. Much of the advice that follows here is from that guide.

First, treat your volunteer or giving program like any other business strategy. Establish goals and objectives. By designing a program to meet specific goals and objectives, your efforts will be proactive rather than simply reactive in responding to requests.

Determine your focus. What are your current business interests? What are your future business needs? What are your employees’ interests and what causes do they support? What issues are likely to affect your business and/or employees? Where do your employees and customers live?

You want your efforts to complement your company’s culture and business interests so your investment provides benefit for both the community and your business.

Next, set a budget. It’s OK to start small. Each contribution makes a difference. Remember, you have more assets than just cash to give. In-kind contributions, including products and supplies, or employee time and talent, are just as important to nonprofit organizations as dollars.

Giving habits usually start with a positive volunteer experience. When you encourage employees to volunteer or make it easy for them to do so, you’re developing future contributors and making an impact that goes beyond a few hours of community service. For more information on volunteering, click

Develop written guidelines for your giving and volunteer programs. Finally, communicate. Tell your employees first. Then, post your guidelines and even a request form on your Web site. Refer grant seekers there first, or mail the materials to them.

Don’t forget about your customers. It’s not self-promotion. You need to reinforce their decision to do business with you and differentiate your company from your competition.

You can recognize the small to medium-sized businesses that make our community a better place by nominating them for The 2006 C.G. Schmidt Ovation Award for Corporate Participation. Your nomination may lead to a $1,500 contribution from C.G. Schmidt to a deserving nonprofit.  Designed to inspire giving in the SMB community, the Ovation Awards honor smaller, lesser-known companies that give back with all the vigor of a larger, more prominent business.

To nominate a deserving small to medium-sized business, visit or e-mail The deadline for nominations will be Tuesday, Aug. 8. The winner will be announced at the Donors Forum of Wisconsin’s annual statewide conference on philanthropy on Wednesday, September 13. 

Tips for Starting a Giving or Volunteer Program

• Establish goals/objectives

• Determine focus

• Set a budget

• Develop written guidelines

• Communicate


Donors Forum of Wisconsin:

Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee:

C.G. Schmidt:

Steven Chamberlin is president of C.G. Schmidt Construction Inc., Milwaukee.


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