Guest opinion: Support for small businesses, small nonprofits critical this year

Teri Hansen
 |  Special to The News-Press

Small businesses are the heartbeat of a community. These local businesses comprise 99.7% of all U.S. companies and nearly half of all jobs in America. They keep your family members, neighbors and friends employed, which in turn keeps the local economy vibrant.

Small nonprofits also are hubs for every community. These charitable organizations help families down the street and across town, providing social services, healthcare, food and housing. They advocate for the environment, animals, children and the arts, making our communities great places to live and work.

In 2020, however, both are struggling.

COVID-19 had a tremendous impact on small businesses and small nonprofits. Eight months after the pandemic brought our region to a screeching halt, locally run businesses still are struggling financially while locally run charities still are trying to meet a greater demand for services.

Each year, Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28) offers an opportunity to renew our vows, pledging to support local businesses and local employees. In 2020, we need to stay faithful to the small businesses that have always been there for us, as well as the small nonprofits that are still trying to help us.

COVID-19 and Florida’s “Safer at Home” order forced many small businesses to close, reduce their hours or shift to remote work. While restaurants promoted to-go options and retailers introduced curbside pickup, it just wasn’t the same. Customers simply stayed at home, and many are still there. Instead of buying goods and services from a local business, they’ve turned to E-commerce and sent their dollars elsewhere.

Nonprofits also felt an impact. Charitable organizations had to cancel fundraising events for spring, summer and fall, essentially shutting off their opportunity to raise money. Meanwhile, people continue turning to food banks, education providers and health care centers during their time of need. Shifting fundraising events to virtual formats will help, but event planners don’t expect to Zoom, WebEx and Facebook Live their way into a steady revenue stream that can sustain vital programs.

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We all need to step up, collectively, to support small businesses and small nonprofits.

As a small business owner myself, I’m well aware of the challenges our business community already has overcome. We’ve seen local businesses pivot to offer their products and services in new, innovative ways. We’ve seen business owners step forward to help employees and strangers through difficult times. That last line on every job posting, the one about “other duties as assigned,” explains exactly how local companies have readjusted their business model to thrive under difficult circumstances.

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As a community, there are four ways we can help small businesses and nonprofits overcome challenging times:

  • Shop local: 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays within that community, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Shopping at mom-and-pop stores is like investing in your own community. Although big box stores often are maligned, they still provide steady employment to local residents. Ordering online through E-commerce giants, however, sends your money to other communities, states or even foreign countries.
  • Dine local: Southwest Florida is home to a thriving culinary arts scene that’s led by amazingly talented chefs, servers and kitchen staff. They have a table waiting for you, but they’ll gladly package a delicious meal for you to enjoy at home.
  • Volunteer local: Pick a charitable cause that’s near and dear to your heart. Southwest Florida likely is home to a local organization that is a great match and would love to have your support.
  • Donate local: Nonprofits always appreciate monetary donations, but many also accept donations of items like clothing, food, cleaning supplies and household items. Several area nonprofits operate resale shops and welcome donations of gently used items.

With high season approaching, there is a great sense of optimism spreading across Southwest Florida. Businesses and nonprofits will continue supporting us as long as we continue supporting them. During a challenging time, it’s comforting to know we have each other’s back.

Teri Hansen, APR, is president and creative director at Priority Marketing. For more information, please visit PriorityMarketing.com, call 239-267-2638 or email Teri@PriorityMarketing.com.

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