The ‘silent force’ of small business owners who give back to their communities

SmartCompany, March 29, 2018

There’s a ‘silent force’ that often goes unnoticed in many cities and towns around Australia: the small business owners who are dedicating their free time to volunteer in their local communities.

This spirit of generosity and community-mindedness has been captured in new research, published today, by NRMA Insurance, which has found business owners are more likely to spend time volunteering than members of the general public.

The survey of 2000 Australians found 51% of business owners volunteer in their community, compared to the public average of 41%. Close to 60% of business owners say they volunteer their time because they feel its important to give back, which compares to the national average of 43%.

When Kathryn Bordonaro, co-founder of finance broker Allbiz Finance, isn’t working at her business in regional Victoria, she is waking up at 5.00 on a Saturday morning to help lug tents around and set up the Gippsland farmer’s market.

“Hauling myself out of bed is hard but I always feel better after going there,” Bordonaro tells SmartCompany.

“I think one of the reasons I enjoy it is because it’s my job to set up the market, and it’s very different to what I do in my day job. But its a beautiful connection to the local community, there lots of small business here.”

For Bordonaro, managing two businesses and volunteering in multiple areas comes down to savvy time management. Working an office job means there’s not much opportunity for exercise, so Bordonaro had to take initiative with how to get those extra steps.

“I made a decision quite a few years ago in my life to watch very little TV,” she says.

“Finance can be quite a sedentary job. I looked at my lifestyle and thought if I sit in front of a TV screen, my health is going to suffer. It’s amazing the hours you get back when you make a change like that.”

“I have to admit sometimes I’m not a good example in that I sacrifice sleeping hours and that’s not a smart or clever thing. It’s something I have to be aware of and I have to manage it.”

The NRMA Insurance survey also found 44% of full-time employees say they are too busy to volunteer for causes, compared to 26% of business owners.

In light of this data, Bordonaro says business owners are a silent force in communities that tend to go unnoticed, spending any free time they have to give back.

“You’re not doing it for the medal on your chest, you do it because it’s the right thing to do. It’s a strong force that runs through so many communities. It’s a strong network and a nice network as well.”

As an unexpected side-effect, Bordonaro says her business has reached new customers through the community, and she has even founded a finance start-up focusing on solutions for food producers.

“I don’t do the volunteering to get more customers for my business but I find meeting the community means I meet a lot of interesting people — and I sometimes end up with a new customer,” she says.

Robert Williams, founder of promotional products brand Your Brand Unleashed, has spent 10 years volunteering for the Country Fire Authority and is currently a lieutenant in the local fire brigade.

Like Bordonaro, volunteering also means early starts for Williams, who woke up at 5.00am this morning. He says he volunteers to help out the community, as well as to take a step back from his business.

“It’s good to have a break from being a business owner. It’s definitely something I make the time for so its my way to give,” he tells SmartCompany.

Williams spends 20 hours a week on average helping out with fire duties. For him, it’s all about “making time” to volunteer for causes. In return, Williams says he has made a range of friends, contacts and even some new customers.

“I’ve got a lot of business out of CFA but the friendship and camaraderie is fantastic. It’s a good hobby if you want to call it that,” he says.

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