Big List of How to Pay it Forward in Business

pay it forward

When you’ve found some amount of success in business, you might feel compelled to pay it forward. There are plenty of different ways you can pay it forward to your employees, clients, partners, colleagues or members of your community. Here’s a big list of ideas for how to pay it forward in business.

How to Pay it Forward in Business

Create a Free ebook for Your Clients

One of the best ways you can share your expertise with others is by creating an ebook. And you can give it away for free to your clients or subscribers.

Make a List of Helpful Resources, Email Them to Your List

You can also put together a simple list of resources that you think would be helpful to the people on your email list.

soccer team

Sponsor a Youth Sports Team

If you want to get involved in your community, consider sponsoring a local youth sports team.

Adopt a Family During the Holidays

During the holiday season, there are lots of local charitable programs that let you support local families in need. Get the people in your office involved by adopting a family as a group.

Donate Your Own Products or Services to a Cause

Or you could share your products or services with local charitable organizations that could use them.

Offer Free Marketing

If you don’t have tangible goods to donate, you can still help charity organizations by offering up advertising space either on your sites or in ad space that you’ve purchased.

Promote Causes on Your Blog

You can also call attention to relevant causes on your business’s blog.

Start a Community Section of Your Website

If you don’t have a blog, or just want to do something extra, add a community or causes section of your website where you list relevant charities or businesses that you support.

bulletin board

Set Up a Community Bulletin Board

If you have a local business, consider setting up a bulletin board where employees and customers can share information about upcoming events, promotions and causes.

Lend Your Expertise to a Non-profit

Support local causes by providing some consulting in your niche to a local non-profit.

Partner with a Charity that Fits with Your Mission

If you want to form a more long-term partnership with a charitable group, find one that fits with your business’s niche or mission.

Teach at a Local University

One of the best ways to share your expertise with the next generation is by teaching. You can serve as an adjunct professor or even guest speaker at a local college.

Let Students Shadow You

Or just invite local students to your workplace for a day or two to shadow you and learn more about your business.

Donate Business Clothing to Relevant Groups

There are plenty of groups that collect business casual type clothing to donate to people for job interviews or new employment. You can share any of your unwanted items with them.

clothing drive

Collect Coats and Scarves

In the winter, set up a collection in your office for coats, hats, scarves and other winter gear to donate to people in need.

Host a Fun Event for Your Best Clients

Do something nice for your clients and best customers by holding a fun, after-hours event at your location or even a local restaurant or bar.

Send an Exclusive Discount to Your Subscribers

Thank your customers and subscribers by sending out an exclusive discount just because.

If You Charge a Monthly Fee, Offer a Free Month

If you have regular customers who pay a monthly fee for your products or services, surprise them with a free month.

Give Out Free Gifts with Purchase

You could also surprise customers by including a free gift with their purchase.

Host a Just-for-fun Contest

Contests can also be a fun way to bring your customers or team members together.

Host a Charitable Contest

You could also add a charitable element to your contest by offering to donate a set amount to the charity of the winner’s choice.


Write a Letter of Recommendation

If you have a colleague or employee who is moving on or looking for new opportunities, write them a glowing letter of recommendation.

Endorse Someone on LinkedIn

LinkedIn also provides an easy way for you to show confidence in the skills and abilities of those you’ve worked with.

Support Crowdfunding Projects

When you see other entrepreneurs who are working on exciting new products or services, support them by contributing to their crowdfunding campaigns.

Introduce Other Entrepreneurs to Investors

You could also introduce your fellow entrepreneurs to investors you know to help them get funding.

Be a Sponsor for a Local Event

Be on the lookout for events in your local community that could use your products, services, or even some extra funds.


Start a Community Garden

If you have some outdoor space near your office, set up a community garden with your team or other community members.

Provide Free Lunch for Your Staff

Doing something nice for your team can be as simple as bringing in a lunch so they don’t have to go out or bring something from home.

Donate Funds to Your Favorite Charity

You can use either your profits or personal account to make a sizable donation to a local group or charity organization.

Donate a Portion of Proceeds

Or you could set a side a certain percentage of your profits to donate to a certain cause or charity.

Let Staff Members Choose a Charity to Support

You can even get your team involved by allowing them to vote on the charity or charities that you support.

Let Customers Choose a Charity

Alternatively, you can have your customers vote on the charity or just ask them about causes that are important to them.

Serve at a Soup Kitchen

Gather your staff and head to a local soup kitchen to serve community members in need and bond as a team.

Set Up a Collection Jar

Place a small jar or container somewhere in your office to collect money from employees for specific causes. You can even change the cause each month or year.

Set Up a Donation Box for Customers

Or if you want to collect varying financial donations from customers, you can set up a donation box near where they complete their purchases.

Have Open Office Hours

Do something nice for your team by simply making yourself available for them to ask questions or share concerns.

habitat house

Build a House

Try out an unconventional way to help charitable causes by volunteering with your team to build houses with Habitat for Humanity or similar organizations.

Use Recycled Materials

If your business does any manufacturing, you can do some good by trying to use recycled materials whenever possible.

Host a Fun Departmental Challenge

Create a fun competitive environment in your workplace by creating a contest that puts your company’s departments against one another. Let the winning department choose a lunch destination or even a charitable cause to donate to.

Offer a Small Token to Welcome New Team Members

When you hire new team members, make them feel welcome by offering them a small gift.

Create a Local Guide for Those Who Have Relocated

You can also create a small guide of the local area so those who have moved to work for your company can get a feel for their surroundings.

Offer Free Advice

Pay it forward by simply sharing some professional advice with a colleague, employee or even a client.

Host an Open Discussion

Or you could host an event where you invite some of your contacts to an open discussion, where you can answer questions and share input on various issues.

Listen When Employees Speak

On a more everyday basis, you can simply be available for your employees so they can ask questions and get your input on their work.

Offer Regular Encouragement

Another important part of building up the confidence of your team is offering encouragement, either through official evaluations or everyday interaction.

Have a Casual Day Donation Program

If you want to get your employees involved in more charitable efforts, you can set up a casual Friday tradition where they can donate a dollar or so to forego the traditional business casual dress code.

Start a Buy One-Give One Program

Some customers appreciate when their purchase goes toward a good cause. So you can set up a program where you give one of your products to people in need for every purchase made.

Give Your Customers the Opportunity to Donate

Or you could let customers donate money to different causes by partnering with a charitable organization and asking customers to contribute a dollar or more when completing their purchases.

Support a Monthly Cause

You could even choose a different cause each month, or choose causes that correlate with different monthly events (i.e. Breast Cancer Awareness Month).


Offer Your Speaking Services

For a more structured experience, offer your services as a public speaker for events or even classrooms.

Offer Professional Development Opportunities

To keep your employees fulfilled and moving forward in their own careers, offer them free training or professional development opportunities periodically.

Have Regular Team Building Activities

You can also hold some team building exercises like organized outings or competitive activities.

Create an Uplifting Video

To offer some inspiration to either your team, customers or website visitors, create a fun or uplifting video and display it on your website or social channels.

Send a Gift to New Neighboring Businesses

Welcome new businesses to your building or neighborhood by stopping over and dropping off a gift basket or other small token.

Encourage Your Staff to Volunteer

Your charitable work doesn’t always have to revolve around financial donations. Organize volunteer outings for your team or simply encourage them to volunteer on your own time.

Offer Time Off for Charitable Work

You could even go a bit further by offering some time off periodically for employees who choose to spend that time volunteering.

Start an Encouragement Thread

Regular encouragement is important for a functioning office. Start an email thread or even place a board in your space where team members can encourage one another.

Put Together Care Packages

An easy way to do something nice for people is to put together care packages. You can give them out to homeless individuals, other community members, or even send them to soldiers overseas.

Make a Donation in Your Employees’ Names

Instead of offering your employees gifts or parties on their birthdays or other events, consider making a donation in their name to a relevant charitable organization.

Assist Sick Team Members

Set up a committee in your office to provide food or similar care packages to fellow employees when they’re under the weather.

Host a Clothing Drive

Your employees likely have a lot of clothing that they don’t wear anymore. So set up a collection area in your office and then donate the clothing to a local charity.

Offer Your Office Space to Charitable Groups

When you’re not using your office, or if you just have a little extra space to spare, offer it up to a local charity group to use for their meetings or other activities

trash pickup

Clean Up a Nearby Park

Gather your staff and head to a local park or outdoor area to clean up litter, plant trees or otherwise beautify your local community.

Encourage Employees to Invest

There are so many different crowdfunding campaigns and opportunities for individuals to support startups these days. Encourage your employees to get involved. And of course, lead by example.

Start a Weekly or Monthly Outing

Invite your team or maybe even your best clients out to a local happy hour or dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Start a Team for a Charitable Walk or Run

There are plenty of charitable events where you can raise money for causes like cancer research by walking, running or performing similar activities. Organize a team of your employees to participate.

Invite People to Your Charitable Events

Or if you have other charitable events that you attend regularly, extend an invitation to your employees, clients or other business contacts.

Invite a School Group on a Field Trip

If your business has anything to offer local students, invite a school group on a field trip to show them around and teach them about your industry.

Invite the Red Cross for a Blood Drive

The Red Cross and similar organizations set up blood drives to collect donations. So you can invite them to your office and encourage your employees to donate.

Send a Handwritten Card

A handwritten card can go a long way toward showing your clients, employees or other contacts that you care.

Leave Encouraging Notes Around the Office

You can also encourage people by leaving small notes around the office with little encouraging messages.

Send E-cards

E-cards can even serve as an easy way to show appreciation or encouragement.

Recognize Your Clients for Their Accomplishments

When your clients have accomplished something big like closing a big deal or a round of funding, it can be especially meaningful to recognize them with a quick note or card.

Recognize Special Occasions

Or send over a note or make a call to your clients on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries or major life events.

Share a Favorite Book

If you have a favorite book or one that you think would be helpful or relevant to a client or colleague, it can make for a great gift to recognize an occasion or accomplishment.


Start a Recycling Program

An easy way for you to do some good is by simply setting up some recycling bins around your office and encouraging your team to create less waste.

Donate Unused Supplies

Or if you have any supplies or materials that you’re not using, donate them instead of just throwing them away.

Lower Your Carbon Footprint

There are also other ways to help the environment with your business, by simply using less energy and harmful materials in your everyday processes.

Encourage Your Team Members’ Goals

An important part of supporting your team is learning about their ultimate goals. If you ask them about what they’d like to accomplish, you can encourage them and help them stay on the right track.

Provide Incentives for Good Work

It can also be a good idea, both for productivity and for your employees themselves, to provide extra incentives for great work.

Support Animals in Need

Paying it forward doesn’t always have to be an activity that just benefits people. You can get your team together and also help some animals in need at local shelters.

Include Inspiring Art in Your Office

Even something as small as including some inspiring quotes or artwork around your office can make a big difference for your team.

Nominate Someone for an Award

When someone on your team, or even one of your clients, does an extraordinary job, nominate them for an award in their field.

Provide Referrals to Other Local Businesses

You can also refer potential customers to other relevant small businesses for different products or services when possible.

Use Local Vendors

And when you purchase products or services for your business, support other small businesses rather than buying from large vendors.

Promote Others on Social Media

If you’ve been happy with other small companies you’ve worked with, share your experience on social media to give them some extra exposure.

Compliment a Colleague

See one of your colleagues doing a good job or excelling in a certain area? Be sure to tell them!

Pay for Another Party’s Bill at a Business Lunch

When you’re out at a business lunch, offer to pay for another party at the restaurant as well.

Speak at an Educational Event

You can share your knowledge and expertise by offering to speak at an educational event related to your field.

Speak on Panels

Or you could speak on event panels that are relevant to your industry.

Create a Scholarship Program

If you want to support education in your community, you can create a scholarship program through your business.

Offer Unique Bonuses

Lots of businesses offer year-end bonuses. But you could also offer smaller bonuses during another part of the year to surprise your employees and let them know they’re doing a great job.

Give Your Employees Money to Give Back

You could also reward your employees with a small stipend that they can donate to the causes of their choice.

Do Pro Bono Work

Every so often, take on a client without charging them just to offer your services to a good cause or someone who really needs them.

Open Source Your Code

For tech companies, you can help out others by making your code widely available for others to use or build upon.

Become a Mentor

Share your business expertise with new entrepreneurs through a mentorship program. You can connect online or just help out someone you’ve already met.

Help Out the Younger Generation

Or you could sign up for a group like Big Brothers, Big Sisters to provide guidance and fun for young kids.

Donate Supplies to Local Schools

If you have some unused office supplies or even tech equipment that you don’t use, find a local school that could use them and make a donation.

Advocate Through an Industry Group

Help other businesses, along with your own, by working with advocacy groups to influence policy in a way that’s favorable for entrepreneurs.

Start an Annual Grant Program

And if you want to give some financial assistance to causes in a more official capacity, start a grant program that organizations can apply for each year.

Helping Hands, Youth Soccer Team, Bulletin Board, Clothing Donations, Typing, Planting Garden, Habitat for Humanity Construction Photo via HFHI/Holly Eaton, Speaker, Trash Pick-upRecycling Bins Photos via Shutterstock

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.