The holiday music you’ve been hearing for the last few weeks heralds the beginning of the Giving Season for the non-profit community. It’s the time of year when the emotion and sentiment of the holidays makes many people simply feel more charitable. This seasonal awareness and focus on the needs of others represents an excellent opportunity for companies to start a new corporate philanthropy program or to expand on an existing program. While the holidays help remind us of the need to give back to our community, the reality is that charitable works are not seasonal and making it a year-round effort has distinct benefits for attracting and retaining employees, engaging clients and customers and building a brand that stands for more than profits.
People feel good about working for companies that are actively engaged in social good. Perks like cool office spaces, new technologies and fully stocked fridges are exciting to new employees, but the novelty often wears off quickly. When you give people purpose in their work and a reason to be proud of their company, the effects are much deeper and longer lasting. Those born in 1995 or later, often referred to as “Generation Z”, seem to be particularly motivated by the opportunity to make an impact on the world, their community and the place they work.
Recent research by Great Place to Work, an organization dedicated to creating high-performing workplace cultures, helps to define the effect philanthropy has on how employees feel about their company. Among 357,000 people surveyed for the list, those who had a positive experience of giving back at work were four times more likely to say their teams were willing to go the extra mile to get the job done. They were also more likely to be brand ambassadors, more likely to commit to staying with their employer for a long time and most were eager to express pride in their company’s efforts.
Top employers have recognized that making philanthropy a part of the organization’s core values can have a significant impact on employee recruiting and retention. In a recent interview, an employee at a highly regarded company said, “I personally lead an employee network and I’m given the time and support needed to effectively manage the network and plan and execute activities that support our community. My employer has a strong reputation as a very giving organization, and that’s really important to me. In fact, my friends and family get tired of hearing me talk about how awesome my company is and how much I love my job!” From a recruiting perspective, imagine how powerful this message could be! If you can’t picture your own employees delivering this kind of testimonial then it’s time to get to work creating your own philanthropic platform at work!
Participation in philanthropic activities is also a wonderful employee development tool. Community projects and charitable committees offer employees valuable leadership challenges they might not experience in their current roles. And they will likely interact with people who are not a part of their usual team, creating a greater sense of community and building comradery that transcends an org chart.
As a bonus, consumers are more likely to purchase from companies that are actively involved in creating social good. According to a Nielsen study, “55% of online consumers stated that they would pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.” Another study, by Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, actually shows that knowing a company has behaved ethically can cause customers to view that company’s products as performing better. For companies with products that have a more subjective value such as gadgets, clothing accessories and food, perception is reality, and it can make all the difference in purchasing decisions.
5 Ways to Get Your Give On
Every person, and every company, has something to give. Sometimes, all you need is a place to start. Here are a few ideas to get your employees and organization into the giving spirit all year long:
- Get Organized: considering starting a Charitable Works Committee at your office. Involve employees in determining what causes are important to your team and their respective communities. Do teammates have a personal connection to a particular cause or issue? Is there an obvious need in your local community that your organization can help address? Step one is getting a dialog going to identify the best causes to support.
- Provide Options: not every cause resonates with every person so look for several opportunities for employees to participate and let them choose which issues they are most interested in. This approach will help employees feel comfortable and enthused with the opportunities you present.
- Move Beyond the Office Team: look for ways to expand involvement to include employee family members and friends. A weekend event might be more conducive to involving family members while a workday evening might entice clients to pitch in and help. The more you can broaden your participation base the more likely you are to be successful in your efforts.
- Recognize Efforts: recognized and reward the efforts of your employees with simple, meaningful rewards. Earning a casual dress day or an early start to the weekend help keep employees enthused and actively participating.
- Show Off: be sure to report back to the organization at large on your charitable efforts and results. Look for opportunities to place signs, circulate news and notify employees of opportunities to participate and results achieved. Savvy companies also recognize that these activities can have a positive impact on recruiting and employee retention.
By following those simple guidelines, you can quickly get your team organized for social good. Opportunities to put all that philanthropic spirit in to action are all around us. For example, at the office, employees could make blankets for a children’s hospital or assemble care packages for local families in need. If getting outside and using your hands is more appealing, you could volunteer on a construction project with an organization like Habitat for Humanity. If running or triathlons are your thing, sign-up for the next race with your company as the sponsor. Or perhaps your company has services it could donate in support of a worthy cause. If you own a bakery, donate your baked goods to a local non-profit. If you work at a web design company, volunteer your collective skills to build a website for an NPO in need. If you work at a recruiting firm, offer a free interviewing workshop to help a local NPOs find the best volunteers.
The possibilities for helping your community and energizing your organization are endless and limited only by your imagination and willingness to pitch in and help. So, as you celebrate this holiday season we encourage you to look for opportunities to help those around you. The sweet irony that any volunteer can attest to is that collaborating with coworkers to help your community is one of the best ways to create a sense of team work and pride while making a real difference in your community. Let’s make 2018 a year of giving!
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