Done the right way, corporate citizenship can:
- Build company culture
- Aid recruiting
- Build municipal and community relationships
- Grow positive brand awareness of your products or services
And let’s be honest, a good corporate citizenship effort doesn’t hurt when applying for business awards, either.
Done the wrong way, corporate citizenship can feel like you’re the pirate captain of a frigate, ruthlessly pressing resentful locals into forced labor at sea, and you can never quite turn your back on them. Done the right way, you might discover members of your team have leadership skills you never knew.
Here are some of my favorite recommendations for starting.
Anoint a Point PersonBefore you decide on a non-profit effort, my recommendation is to anoint a point person, someone preferably not in upper management. This flattened hierarchy approach minimizes the risk you end up with reluctant volunteers. Know of a member of your staff who is organized and genuinely loves community service? Maybe ask them to gather a committee of like-minded and interested individuals. They might later thank you for an opportunity to shine.
Identify a Non-ProfitPartner with a non-profit you’d really like to support, and do so in a dedicated way, rather than initiating multiple efforts for a different charity every month. Participation tends to dwindle over time with a varied program as it fails to result in significant engagement between your team and that of the non-profit. A sustained effort personalizes the non-profit’s needs: multiple people at your company will get to know the people at the non-profit by name and want to help.
Like many successful companies, one of our clients believes that “charity begins at home,” but they also participate in local and national charities. They put together a company team for a 150-mile bike ride to benefit MS. “In part because vendors and customers pitched in as well, the company finished second in fundraising behind Bank of America,” the CEO proudly reported. This Corporate Leadership event (and many more with it) was critical to this client winning Dealer of the Year in their industry. A huge award.
Additionally, when choosing a non-profit, take a load off. There’s nothing wrong with contributing to a non-profit that also serves your business interests. It’s still a non-profit. If you’re in the security industry, supporting law enforcement or first responder charities is a nice way of giving back to a community that enables your business. If one of your big customers happens to be a non-profit, giving back to them reaffirms your long-term relationship with that customer.
Lots of Events, or Just One?In the long run, it’s easier to plan a single, annual charity event and do it in a big way than it is to maintain monthly small efforts. The financial investment may be a little higher, but so is the return. It’s a bigger PR draw, less of your time, and minimizes the off-work hour demands on your team who have families and causes of their own. Plus, if it’s a bigger event, the anticipation and excitement for that event can be infectious, strengthening and reaffirming company culture.
Market Your EffortsDon’t be shy. In addition to the press releases, co-branding, and advertising of your event on social media, seek opportunities that will last throughout the year. Have a page about them on your website. Share their posts occasionally in social media, even if they don’t mention your company. Encourage – but don’t force -- employees to show up for another event the non-profit is doing, or show up there yourself. A good non-profit will likely thank you publicly for the effort, each time, further consolidating the relationship.
Stick to a Flattened Hierarchy ApproachWhile Marketing and PR for a big event will necessarily have to be coordinated with management, and even if your event is a bigger success than you anticipated, our recommendation is don’t let management put up barriers between your team and the non-profit. This is a “more the merrier” opportunity: you want as many people on your team caring about this non-profit as possible if you want to sustain a successful program. Regular contact achieves that. Internally, every time this team meets, consider a “leave your job title at the door” approach, so your team always feels like they’ve chosen to give up their time for this, rather than feeling like they’ve been drafted.
Have fun, feel good about paying a little of your company’s success forward. The ROI can be priceless.