Anyone can give up something if they expect something else in return. It’s when you give without the expectation of receiving anything in return that you really feel the value of charitable donations. That’s true for small businesses, many of whom owe their very existence to the support of the community that surrounds them.

But how can small businesses give back to the community, and what should your own donations look like? After all, you wouldn’t spend your small business’s money frivolously on a bunch of equipment you’ll never use. You don’t want your charity dollars to be wasted, either. That’s why giving back to the community requires three things:

Of course, there are more ways to give back to your community than to simply make a charitable donation. And some of these strategies have the added bonus of helping your business. Here are some ways you can get involved:

Way #1: Donate To or Sponsor a Community Event

Community events are the glue that holds each community together. Without them, people wouldn’t have the occasion to get together, share their stories, and enjoy a common experience. That’s why so many businesses recognize that they can get their name out there and support their local community by sponsoring a local community event.

Which event should you choose? This is where your own research will come in. We can’t tell you what’s most important to your community. We also can’t tell you what will get your sponsorship the most hits or drive the most sales. What’s important is that you try to find what’s most important to the people around you—and use your small business to support it when you can.

You don’t have to jump at the first community event sponsorship opportunity you find, either. Feel free to call around, do some online research, and review your options before you choose a community event that represents your brand and helps you achieve the same goal with which you created your business in the first place.

Way #2: Hold Your Own Charitable Event

If you can’t find big-ticket events to sponsor on the calendar, you can always organize and host your own event. Of course, this will require labor in addition to the financial commitment. That’s why charitable events often require weeks or even months of planning.

Which sort of charitable event should you choose? That’s where the “message” element we mentioned above comes in. What service does your business provide that would be a help to the community?

You might also call the local chamber of commerce or local government to see what kinds of needs the community has. If your business’s products or services fit these needs, the event practically organizes itself.

Way #3: Create a “Matching” Program

Charitable donations are a fast, efficient way to give back to the community. All you have to do is fill out an online form and click “donate.”

So how do small business owners use a method like that in a way that’s more relevant to your local community? You can always create a matching program. In a program like this, you’ll organize a drive in which you promise to match individual donations. Don’t worry if you’re a stickler for staying on the budget and the bottom line—you can always set your own parameters and fine print.

Common places where you can match individual contributions include local nonprofit organizations, food banks, and other charitable donations.

Way #4: Organize a Local Fundraiser—Or Sponsor One

Take a drive around your local community. Spot any fundraisers? Chances are that if you drive long enough, you may find a classic “thermometer” sign that measures an organization’s progress against a fundraising effort.

The truth is, fundraisers aren’t too hard to find. They’ll often find you. But you can also enter a social media search for fundraisers in your area if you’re unsure where to start. It’s rare that you can’t find some sort of local effort that wouldn’t accept a sponsor if they knew that you were willing to make a sizeable contribution.

Many times, these fundraisers will accept local sponsors as key strategies to boost their own results. In return, your name is mentioned during the fundraiser, reaffirming your commitment to corporate social responsibility and your local community.

Way #5: Encourage Volunteerism in Your Own Employees

Some companies may even create incentive programs to encourage donating, team building, and volunteerism within their own small community of employees. It’s not only a great way to foster greater community involvement, but helps build your own team’s morale. They can get a break from the monotony of working while enjoying the incentives you use. Meanwhile, local community service increases and you’ve helped boost local community involvement.

One small way you can do this is to include an optional, once-a-quarter volunteer opportunity with your employees. Doing so won’t only encourage employees to meet with other people in the community and interact with them, but will help you meet your own community involvement goals.

Giving Back During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is the perfect time to give back, but community involvement is something that your business should take seriously all year long. It not only demonstrates that you’re willing to thank people for their support, but helps people remember your name. And local customers are more likely to visit you if they feel that you’re on the same team.