The U.S. GDP shrunk for the second quarter in a row in the summer of 2022. This is a benchmark that many use to decide whether or not the country is in a recession. While other factors are also at play, it’s important for business owners to at least treat this news as a warning shot of possible things to come.

If the country slides into a recession in the next few months, it’s important to look further than the four walls of your business. Here are a few suggestions for ways that you can continue to cultivate goodwill amongst your company’s local community during a recession.

1. Offer Local Discounts and Donations

There’s nothing wrong with showing a little hometown pride as a business. It doesn’t matter if you’re a local retailer that caters to the needs of your town or an e-commerce giant that sells goods around the world. You can show support to your local community (as in the geographically close individuals living near where your business operates) by giving back.

The editorial staff at Nextdoor points out that charitable donations for tax benefits may have its perks. However, “you are likely to be more engaged in giving back to the community when the cause is close to your heart.” You can do this in many different ways, including:

  • Donating products and services.
  • Offering discounts (especially targeted toward community members and heroes).
  • Hosting or sponsoring local charity events.

It’s also worth pointing out that this generosity is a two-way street. The association with your local community will also encourage reciprocated loyalty. As those who live around your company come to see you as an organization invested in their well-being, many will naturally want to show similar support. 

It’s the same concept as asking consumers to patronize small and local businesses. Except, in this case, the business starts the relationship by showing that it supports the local community first.

2. Empower Employees to Impact the Community

Using a company to give back to the community can sometimes feel like drinking from a fire hydrant. It’s easy to mismanage funds and miss needs. Jake Wood, founder & CEO of Groundswell points out the emotions that many leaders experience when it comes to company-wide philanthropic efforts, “It can feel overwhelming as a company leader to know where to support.”

Wood goes on to explain that one way to avoid this is by empowering employees to direct a business’s charity efforts. “We know our employees have a wide range of causes they care deeply about, so why not directly support them? We want to democratize that decision and give it back to our employees.”

Wood and his team are careful to practice what they preach. Groundswell itself, which operates a cutting-edge “philanthropy-as-a-service” platform, gives each of its employees $150 per quarter. This goes into a personal giving account that they can donate to whichever charity they want to support.

By decentralizing an organization’s giving, it enables your business to meet local community needs in intimate and detailed ways. If a recession is underway, there’s no one like your employees to keep their fingers on the pulse of your local community’s biggest needs.

3. Teach Free Courses

One of the most common reactions from companies during a recession is to cut expenses. Tighter budgets lead to layoffs, which can leave many people without jobs. If higher unemployment rates are in the future, one useful way a business can support the local community is by helping to hone their professional skills.

The 21st-century workplace is in a constant state of evolution. This has led to a continual need for upskilling and, sometimes, even full-blown reskilling. Many leaders are aware of this need and invest significant resources into keeping their employees’ collective skills up to date.

When an individual is unemployed, though, it’s difficult to keep up with the latest developments. This can erode their qualifications and make it even harder to find a new employer. Stephanie Wells, founder of Formidable Forms and member of the YEC, recommends that businesses support their communities by teaching free courses. “As a business owner, you have a wealth of knowledge that aspiring entrepreneurs would love to tap into,” says Wells. “Many people would jump at the opportunity to learn from someone in their industry with firsthand experience who could guide them in the right direction.” 

Providing free professional courses is the real-world equivalent of teaching a man to fish. It’s a great way to show your community members that you’re invested in their individual success. 

If a recession is really in the cards, it’s going to be challenging for everyone. Rather than focus purely on your own business’s survival, take the time to invest in your community, too. The effort won’t go unnoticed and will likely lead to synergistic and mutually beneficial benefits for your company, your employees, and the community members that surround you.