Small businesses in the United States employ over 58 million people. With the pandemic, these businesses are facing numerous hardships due to government lockdown and confinement orders. Keeping small businesses going during these unprecedented times is incredibly important for the economy to function properly. Many professionals across a wide range of industries are stepping up and offering pro bono consulting services to help small businesses. Here are five stories highlighting how pro bono consulting services are helping small businesses survive and thrive in this current crisis.
Parks and Recreation
Pro bono consulting services can help parks and recreation programs in a number of positive ways for local communities. They can help these facilities raise money for projects and programs that benefit local residents, such as basketball training camps and cleanup efforts. These consulting services can help identify areas of improvement for environmental sustainability and preservation to protect wildlife and historic areas. Parks help provide value to their community by providing a place for people to relax and unwind in nature from the daily stresses of life. They are also critical for mitigating high heat temperatures in certain regions that can affect climate change.
During the pandemic, parks have become safe places for people to escape their homes to get fresh air and exercise while social distancing. Daily physical exercise is one of the crucial ways for helping many people maintain a healthy immune system to fight off the virus and keep themselves healthy. Volunteers often use local parks to help distribute meals to children while schools are closed. People are able to maintain a small social connection with others at local community parks that can vastly improve their mental health and wellbeing. The programs offered by parks and recreation facilities are vital in keeping communities healthy and strong during this crisis.
In West Virginia, the Mills Group architecture firm is celebrating its 15 year anniversary by offering free conceptual design services. These pro bono consulting services will help nonprofits and public entities in the state improve their local communities through architecture planning and preservation efforts. For example, one project the firm plans to tackle is the commercial construction of an indoor recreation facility to house the New Martinsville Parks and Recreation Commission. The Mills Group is assisting them with building plans and securing funding. Without the free help from the architecture firm, these plans wouldn’t have been made a reality.
Marketing and Communications
Many small businesses are at high risk for permanently closing their doors as they try to deal with government restrictions during the pandemic. Dealing with everyday operations and changing governmental guidelines makes it hard for business owners to focus on long term growth. As a result, their marketing plans for future growth can suffer and be completely ignored while they focus on survival on a short term basis. If these small businesses don’t figure out how to adapt during this crisis, they may have to put up their business for sale and risk losing their homes. Marketing firms that provide pro bono consulting services can help these businesses make it through the difficult current economic crisis with a strong plan for long term growth.
Small businesses right now may need help with drafting a crisis communications plan for employees, customers, and shareholders along with shifting to online delivery of goods and services. Many businesses need help with website design, sales pages, and relevant content to keep their customers in the loop regarding their business activities. This online assistance can also include setting up marketing and sales software programs to help them automate their streams of revenue and reach more customers. Nonprofits can use marketing assistance with creative fundraising campaigns to drive awareness and revenue for their causes. Small business owners can use help with advice on how to best maximize their sales and marketing budgets while having enough financial resources to keep their doors open at the same time.
One example of a marketing and communications organization that is providing pro bono consulting services for small businesses is a brand new company called Catalyst Communications. Their business consulting services will review small business marketing and communication plans on a virtual basis. Business owners can receive recommendations on actionable steps they can take to increase sales traffic during the pandemic. When it comes to financial planning, exchanging ideas and advice is only 20% of the work. Approximately 80% of the work is taking the right actions, which is what most small businesses are struggling to figure out in all the chaos.
Catalyst Communications decided to help out after noticing numerous social media posts from business owners. These posts requested support from the community because these small business owners feared not being able to make it through the year. The communications company wanted to relieve the stress these companies face from adjusting their strategies every two weeks with the pandemic. By making their lives easier, it would hopefully help them stay in business. Small businesses that still need help during this crisis are encouraged to call or email the company to receive assistance.
Just like with marketing, many small businesses need help with public relations during the pandemic. Local and national media has been dominated by information about the virus. This can make it impossible for a local painting company or other small businesses to get any public relations coverage. When the world is highly concerned about public health and safety, regular business sales and marketing tactics can be ineffective and appear insensitive. However, these businesses have to rely on sales and marketing in order to stay profitable in order to survive the pandemic.
If they want to succeed at getting the word out about their business activities, the small business owners need experienced professionals to help them pitch their stories. Public relations professionals feel they are finally getting an opportunity that wasn’t available prior to the pandemic to volunteer their pro bono consulting services. These professionals can help small business owners create content that’s relevant to current affairs so that they can be successful. Anything that businesses can do to provide value and assistance to their customers struggling during the pandemic is more likely to gather media attention.
Charities can also benefit from the help of public relations firms. By getting their stories out, these local charities can attract more funding, donations, and volunteers during the pandemic. Restaurants that are trying to adapt by offering curbside pickup and delivery can benefit greatly from some extra social media attention. With all the fear and negativity surrounding the virus, consumers can greatly appreciate feel-good stories about businesses that are making a positive impact. There are countless ways that small businesses can benefit from consulting services.
One pro bono public relations agency known as empath worldwide is offering free assistance to businesses all over the world. Volunteer public relations graduates assist clients spanning 10 time zones. These professionals are helping business owners revamp their websites and strengthen their social media kits. These services can be beneficial for a wide range of businesses from a local pool supply company to documentary filmmakers. Many of the businesses that empath worldwide works with are struggling to navigate the promotion of their services for the first time online.
Support for Local Black-Owned Businesses
Black-owned businesses have been hit the hardest during the pandemic. According to research from the New York Times, over 40% of black business owners weren’t working in April when the economic effects of the pandemic were at their worst. At the time, only 17% of white small business owners reported being in the same situation. Many black business owners who were open for business tried to weather the storm by cutting back on their digital marketing efforts. This made them less visible and competitive in the marketplace, which can lead to fewer business transactions.
Black-owned businesses typically earn less revenue and have less equity than their white counterparts across various industries. Black entrepreneurs often have less access to startup capital and consulting expert services. Many of these business owners open their companies in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. This can give them less exposure to lucrative business opportunities. The pandemic has opened up numerous opportunities to provide support for black-owned businesses through pro bono consulting services.
In Pennsylvania, a Harrisburg-based law firm is offering to help up to five black-owned businesses with $50,000 in legal pro bono consulting services. The Legal Equity Advancement Program is accepting applications from startup companies that are at least 51% black-owned or controlled. This program can help eliminate barriers to launching and growing a business. Services provided in the program include financing, insurance, licensing, and contract negotiations. Only businesses in a specific region of the state will be eligible for the program.
Other organizations have also stepped up across the country to provide support for black-owned businesses with pro bono consulting services and other assistance. Facebook provided help through $40 million in grants specifically for black-owned businesses. Financial services firm Citi launched over $1.15 billion in strategic initiatives for black entrepreneurs to aid in closing the racial wealth gap. Target is providing $10 million in consulting services for minority-owned small businesses. Various local organizations across the country are popping up to help black-owned businesses in their local communities as well.
Water Operator/Environmental Services
Volunteers are offering pro bono consulting services to make a significant environmental impact to help people live healthier lives. Environmental services are becoming increasingly critical in order to build a sustainable future in the face of climate change and other pressing problems. These services have been on the frontlines during the pandemic with sanitization efforts to control the spread of the virus. They also work closely to help mitigate hazards during disaster relief efforts. Many small businesses are struggling to afford environmental services while trying to keep their operations going during these tough economic times.
There has been increasing focus during the pandemic on the development of green energy for environmental sustainability. Pro bono consulting services are working to come up with various energy improvement solutions for commercial and industrial buildings. These efforts can help small business owners reduce operational expenses in order to stay open and keep people employed. These services can address issues with air and water quality, infection control, and health hazards that can develop within infrastructures. These volunteer environmental services are also helping to create crisis plans to help prevent further detrimental impacts from other geographical concerns and biological threats.
In Nevada, full-service environment and civil engineering firm Broadbent and Associates is helping a local campus ensure that their drinking water is safe for staff, students, and visitors. The pro bono consulting services will provide support through monetary donations and volunteers in the 2021 opening of the Tahoe Truckee Waldorf community campus in Reno. Other organizations have been enlisted to provide assistance as well. Civil engineering firm The Genesis Group provided assistance with architectural building plans, utility services, and permits. The Western Environmental Testing Laboratory voluntarily contributed testing on the building’s water treatment system to make sure there were no contaminants.
The executive director of the campus noted that without the donated help from these three organizations, the new campus wouldn’t be possible. Because of these volunteers, the community will be positively impacted by the educational programs provided by the campus. The campus helps generate funding to increase access to Waldorf education for local families in their community. Broadbent and Associates provides scientific solutions for small businesses throughout the world that are dealing with the challenges in comprehensive resource management.
The recent pandemic has offered endless possibilities for pro bono consulting services to make a significant impact on small businesses. By helping these business owners learn to adapt, they can come back stronger to help restore economic stability. These volunteer interventions can help many businesses keep their doors open and provide for their families and community. The pandemic has been emotionally and physically taxing for many business owners simply just trying to stay alive. These pro bono consulting services can help give some relief so that small business owners can focus on what matters the most.