When your business engages with the surrounding community, the benefits ripple outward as you connect with both employees and consumers on a deeper level.
Your employees will value having opportunities to engage with their community, whether through donations of funds or time to the local YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club, the American Heart Association, or any other cause that syncs up with your company’s mission and values.
When your organization gives back to the community, you show your team, the people around you, and your customers that the business is bigger than revenue and profit margins. It demonstrates leadership and positions you as someone who people aspire to be.
Many company leaders think they lack the resources to engage with the community in meaningful ways, but even small acts can make a big difference. If funds are sparse for donating, drum up the troops and send your team out for a morning of volunteering. If time is the problem, encourage employees to donate to a cause and have the company match their contributions.
Do Good, Feel Good
Whatever way you get involved with the community, one thing’s for certain: Your company will reap the rewards.
First of all, you’ll be encouraging a deeper and more human connection between your business and the public. For B2B companies especially, actively participating in the community may be the one way you can increase your name recognition with everyday consumers and give them a picture of who you are as a company, what you stand for, and what you do.
When people see you lending a hand to causes they believe in, it’s a unique opportunity to create a high level of brand trust and loyalty. Consumers are more willing to be loyal to a company with values that align with their own. When they buy your product or interact with your brand, consumers get a similar sense of gratification as if they had given back themselves.
Take Lemonade, an insurance company. Its business model is founded on giving back: Any leftover funds or underwriting profits that aren’t spent at the end of the year is donated to charity. The company’s rapid success is evidence that being a part of your community and giving back really does make a difference for your bottom line.
Finally, working together to benefit the community can result in tighter team relationships. For instance, I recently heard a story about a company that ran a giving campaign. Each employee received a $20 gift card and was tasked with going out into the community, finding someone to give the money to, and asking for his or her story. The company curated these stories and used them to foster a closer relationship among team members. The exercise was deeply impactful for the employees who saw that their company cared and wanted them to pay it forward.
3 Simple Steps for Becoming Active in Your Community
If you want to be an active member of your community as a business leader or as a company, you have to get out there and start participating. But how do you know the right causes to support? There are endless ways to get involved — how do you choose where to start? How do you get your employees on board?
1. Do your research.
More than 1.5 million nonprofits operate in the U.S. — that can be overwhelming if you don’t go about selecting your cause strategically. Learn about the community and seek out causes, committees, or events that align with your values. Ask nonprofit leaders in your town to meet you for coffee to talk about ways you can get involved. Look for organizations that offer common ground to start on so you can begin to build a foundation of community and collaboration.
2. Bring your internal community to the table.
Engage your employees to help select businesses, organizations, and causes to partner with. Most likely, someone on staff has a cause that’s close to her heart or that she’s passionate about. Finding a cause that everyone believes in is a surefire way to make sure that the efforts continue and don’t fizzle out.
If all else fails, create your own. When it was time for my company to get involved, I couldn’t find anyone addressing the problem I wanted to tackle: improving the health of the community. Instead of selecting a cause we were less passionate about, we teamed up with a youth center in downtown Detroit and created Determined Health Alliance.
It’s also a good idea to have a team within your organization to drive and help maintain your company’s relationship with the community. Not only will this ensure the relationship stays strong, but it also will increase employee engagement. That’s a very good thing: Engaged employees put in significantly more effort than their less-engaged peers.
3. Make it easy for employees to participate.
Being an active member of the community doesn’t have to be a burden. Employees won’t stay on board if you make them feel coerced into donating large amounts or giving up whole weekend days to volunteer. Instead, look for ways to make it easy and stress-free for employees to get involved. Drum up donations through a company bake sale or talent show. Organize a quarterly weekday of volunteering or give employees a half-day off each month to volunteer at the charity of their choice.
Giving back is not a one-size-fits-all situation — there are many ways to become an active member of the community. You just need to find the right way that will benefit the community, your employees, and your bottom line.