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Community Involvement: How to Be a Company That Gives Back

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Why get involved in your community? Besides the sense of satisfaction that volunteering might give you, companies that engage in their communities enjoy some very real benefits.

Would your business like better employee retention, better earnings, and better teamwork? Studies show that businesses enjoy these and more.

Community Involvement programs
Step outside your office and embrace community involvement to make an impact. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

What if I told you that running a successful business and giving back to the community are complementary goals? 

In this article, you'll learn why community involvement is a good business practice. You'll also see community involvement ideas and examples of companies that give back to the community. 

How Does Community Involvement Help Business?

Community involvement makes good business sense. Studies show that when companies start contributing to their communities, they reap the rewards in many ways:

  • Higher employee retention. 80% of HR managers reported that community involvement helped them retain talent. (Boston College)
  • It increases value. 30% of corporate earnings are impacted by a company's reputation with external, community stakeholders. (McKinsey)
  • Bonding your teams. 64% of surveyed employees bonded and built stronger connections while volunteering together. (UnitedHealth Group)

Let's take a closer look at more reasons your business should give back. We'll also dig a little deeper into these statistics.

Why Your Business Should Give Back

Maybe you've heard about companies that give back to the community. But you still aren't sure if your business is an excellent candidate to volunteer or donate. 

Here are three key reasons why community involvement programs are so important:

1. It's The Right Thing To Do

The classic business theory assumed that companies existed to maximize shareholder return. This theory means that the business's sole goal is to increase the financial value of the company and its shareholders.

More recently, the world is embracing Edward Freeman's theory of stakeholder return. It's the idea that there are many parties to consider in business decisions, like employees, suppliers, consumers, investors, and the community.

Stakeholder theory looks beyond stockholders. It considers the fact that a business depends upon and impacts all of these parties. That means that the company should consider the impact on all stakeholders when making decisions.

Build your community
Contributing to the community that you operate in is a reward unto itself. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

Many stakeholders depend upon a business. It's essential to consider the responsibility of your business within the community. When you donate your time or funds, it serves the interest of the community. Which, in turn, can help your business.

Think about it this way: if your company doesn't give back to the community, what effect will this have on the community? In time, you might see your top talent move away and pursue a better lifestyle, even if they enjoy their jobs.

But don't take my word for it. According to a McKinsey study, an 

"analysis determined that 30 percent of corporate earnings are affected by the company’s reputation with external stakeholders."

It shows that investors put a premium on companies that engage in the community.

There are undoubtedly successful "side effects" to community involvement, like recruiting and team building. But the core value of community involvement is that businesses don't just operate in a community. They're the community.

2. It Attracts and Retains Employees

Employees gravitate to companies that "do good." Younger employees, in particular, seek out socially conscious brands that seek to impact their communities. Boston College surveyed companies and found that 

"more than 80 percent of company respondents report that community involvement contributes to improving ability to recruit employees and reduce turnover."

If you want to hire employees that share your vision, you've got to build your presence as a company. In time, potential hires will discover and seek your brand out as one that gives back to the community.

Of course, giving back to your community is a reward unto itself. But you're also likely to draw potential team members with a like-minded community focus. This is how community involvement becomes ingrained as a part of the culture.

3. It Builds Teams

For fast-growth companies, one of the challenges is fostering connections between co-workers. Building working relationships increases productivity and promotes a high-performing workplace.

Team building doesn't always happen inside the four walls of your office. One way to launch a successful community involvement campaign is to plan a team volunteer day.

Team building for community involvement
During volunteer efforts, you might be surprised how your team comes together. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

According to a UnitedHealth Group study, 

"64 percent of employees who currently volunteer said that volunteering with work colleagues has strengthened their relationships." 

That's a compelling reason to promote volunteerism.

How to Get Involved In Your Community

If you're convinced of the value of community involvement, you might be wondering how to get involved in your community. Especially if you're running a startup, this might all seem new.

In this section, we'll look at tried-and-true techniques for how to get involved in your community. Here are five ways to help your community involvement program grow, rapidly:

1. Promote Volunteerism By Employees

If you asked everyone in your company if they volunteer, I bet you'd hear the following answer more than once:

"I would volunteer, but I just don't have the time!"

So, why not remove that excuse? If you give employees the time to volunteer, it removes a barrier. Many companies are now providing employees with hours each year (or even a full day) to volunteer. Giving employees paid time off specifically for volunteering is a benefit that shows your company is serious about volunteerism.

Employee volunteerism
Give your employees time to volunteer in their way, like their community schools. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

One idea is to give your employees discretionary time to volunteer at the cause of their choice. This gives them the freedom to contribute to causes that they already support. And when fellow volunteers hear that a company is sponsoring it, it might attract new hires!

Companies that give back do so by promoting it across the company. Instead of just a few employees spending their time, sponsor it company-wide for the most significant impact.

2. Collaborate With Other Businesses

What's better than one company working toward community involvement? Many companies working together for a common cause.

Businesses that give back are more powerful when they work together. Find other companies that you can partner with that embrace community involvement.

For a bit of extra fun, start a friendly competition with other businesses. Put something at stake like a reward dinner or prize pack to inspire each company to "out-give" the other. Not only is it fun, but it also helps increase involvement.

3. Donate Your Product or Service

It's relatively easy to make financial contributions. Any company with a bit of extra cash can write a check and support causes and charities. This is often called "checkbook philanthropy." 

But, is it the best way to embrace community involvement? Probably not. It's better to donate the product or service that your company does best.

Here are a few examples of how teams can contribute to the community:

  • Accounting firms can donate tax filing to low-income filers or provide bookkeeping for small businesses that promote a good cause.
  • Web and graphic designers could donate design services to charities to help them increase their professionalism and presence.
  • Photographers give professional photographs to great causes like animal shelters, and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Many times, great photographs can help spur action or capture important moments for people in your community.

It's important to remember that no matter what service your company offers, you can get involved in your community. Think about if your product or service is one that can help people in your area that otherwise couldn't afford it.

Community involvement is more powerful when you donate more than funding. Businesses that give back in ways that they're uniquely qualified to do so make an outsized impact on communities.

4. Ask Employees for Charities to Sponsor

The biggest challenge for most companies isn't knowing how to get started in their communities. The challenge is: which charities and causes should you sponsor when you start taking community involvement seriously?

The answer might already be in your office. Asking your employees how to get involved in your community is sure to help you find a cause to feel passionate about.

Discussion for community involvement ideas
Not sure how to start? Ask your employees for community involvement ideas. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

When you involve your employees in selecting causes, it builds a sense of involvement. Not only will they be happy that you asked for their opinion, but they'll also feel energized at the thought of you providing resources to their cause.

  • Create an employee survey to make sure that you capture plenty of ideas for charities that are good candidates for community involvement.
  • Conduct office-wide voting and select top charities that employees suggest. 
  • Rotate through multiple community charities to make sure that everyone feels involved.

If you want to learn how to get involved in your community, ask your employees! They're likely already acquainted with great causes that your company can sponsor. Businesses that give back build trust within teams.

5. It's Okay to Start Small

As you admire other companies that give back to the community, it might feel overwhelming. There are so many valiant efforts that you might feel intimidated before you launch your community involvement efforts.

Remember: it's okay to start small. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. Instead of waiting until you've got the perfect plan for charity for your small business, launch something! It's a start that you can build on in the future.

Businesses That Give Back

Even with the help of the tips above, you might be brainstorming about how to get involved in your community.

With the help of leading companies and brands, you might be inspired to action. These companies set the standard for doing good while building successful companies. 

Here are several examples of companies that give back to the community:

1. TOMS Shoes

One of my favorite examples of brands that give back is TOMS Shoes. Started by Blake Mycoskie in 2006, Tom's uses a "One for One" product that gives back. For each pair of shoes that customers purchase, the company donates one as well. TOMS later refined their approach by working with local shoe manufacturers to ensure that they didn't displace local sales via donation.

What we give Toms
TOMS donates a variety of services and products, including shoes.

The One for One program involves everyone in the charitable approach. Not only will customers feel good about their purchase, employees feel involvement by working for a brand that gives back. 

Companies that donate when you buy can inspire both consumers and communities. Remember the tip above that you should give your product or service. TOMS embodies this beautifully by donating the thing that they know most about: shoes!

2. Everlane

Everlane is an apparel company. It's a great example of brands that give back through several channels.

First, Everlane is extremely transparent about its business practices. Clothing manufacturing has historically taken place in areas where there are fewer regulations and lower wages. In contrast, Everlane discloses the salaries paid and the cost of materials. 

Also, Everlane also sponsors charitable movements with their Black Friday Fund, which donates the company's profits each year on Black Friday.

Businesses that give back do so every day. They make products that give back by providing good jobs and reducing the impact on the environment. Everlane is an excellent example of building social responsibility in the business model.

3. Envato

Envato is an active sponsor of many community involvement efforts.

Envato is an Australian-based company that's aligned itself with community causes. The Envato Foundation is funded by 1% of Envato's pre-tax profits. It supports causes that align with the community. The company has done tremendous work to involve and elevate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

Envato Foundation Yalari
The Envato Foundation works with causes like Yalari that help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

A variety of factors, including community involvement programs, helps Envato regularly land on Best Places to Work lists. It's a great example of helping the community, with a positive byproduct of attracting passionate employees.

Learn More About Giving Back

Are you ready to learn more about becoming more involved in your community? The following articles may help. They discuss business ethics, ethical leadership and personal values:

Launch Your Community Involvement Today

In this article, you saw outstanding examples and ideas for how to get involved in your community. Maybe this was the push you need to become a company that gives back. Follow the guideposts set by other successful brands that give back.

Remember: your community is counting on you to contribute. Also, you'll reap the rewards by signaling your company as a socially conscious one that employees will gravitate to.

If you're wondering how to get involved in your community, use this tutorial as your guide. Remember to include your employees, and in no time, you can begin making a difference.

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