3 Ways Philanthropy Can Add to Your Company Culture

Make an impact on your community and your employees at the same time.

learn more about Chirag Kulkarni

By Chirag Kulkarni

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When most entrepreneurs set off to start a new venture, they are driven by the notion that their unique idea or product can add real value to people's lives. But, before business leaders can improve the well-being of customers, they first have to find ways to add value to the lives of their employees.

In an effort to attract and appease employees, entrepreneurs often pad company cultures with perks: cool office spaces, new technologies and fully stocked fridges. While these additives are enticing, the novelty often wears off quickly.

Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and investor Blake B. Johnson has seen success over the course of his 16-year career because he doesn't build his company cultures around shiny objects; instead, he cultivates a foundation of serving others. "When my employees participate in community-building programs outside of the office it creates an unparalleled buzz inside the office. After team volunteering events, people are generally happier and more productive. The chance to work together to build something solely for the benefit of serving others is more motivating than any office perk or team-building exercise," Johnson says.

When individuals are encouraged to come together as a team to help others, it often spurs deeper employee engagement.

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1. Giving back fuels happiness.

It has been scientifically proven that giving back is one of the pillars of health and happiness. In fact, participating in altruistic activities actually stimulates the brain and sparks the release of dopamine and endorphins. Every employer knows that a company is most at danger when its employees are unhappy at work. Not only does unhappiness lead to a lack of productivity, but it also brings on high turnover rates. Building a corporate culture around volunteering is one of the smartest moves an entrepreneur can make to serve the good of the company -- and community -- simultaneously.

2. Community building drives team bonding.

No charitable organization can exist without the financial contributions of others, and in 2016 corporate giving accounted for $18.55 billion in charitable donations. Funding programs will always be paramount to the success of community-building initiatives. However, writing checks and encouraging employees to donate to annual drives and fundraisers doesn't have quite the same internal effect.

Philanthropy in any shape and form is always positive, but social initiatives that encourage team members to work together have a stronger ripple effect on company culture than those that just ask for monetary contributions. Yes, it's nice to know that your employer's contributions may have helped fund new classroom materials or holiday toy drives, but it's hard for employees to feel truly connected to those causes because they have no direct involvement.

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But, when employees are encouraged to participate in ongoing volunteer programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, they witness firsthand how donating their time can actually change the course of other people's lives. Showing up and working with people who are less fortunate not only creates a sense of accountability, but it also offers real-time gratification that motivates individuals to continue participating and finding ways to give back.

3. Charitable initiatives lead to job fulfillment.

Regardless of industry or job title, most individuals want to feel as though they are contributing to something bigger than themselves and making a positive and lasting impact on the world around them. People want to take pride in their work, even if their current job is not necessarily their dream career. Working for organizations that encourage individuals to focus on more than just meeting sales goals or garnering client wins sparks a greater sense of fulfillment.

Gen Z employees are especially focused on finding ways to make an impact, and working for companies that highlight volunteer work as core cultural component helps young professionals feel more satisfied and, subsequently, more productive, in their roles.

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Azazie, an ecommerce company specializing in bridesmaid dresses and bridal gowns, has built a company culture steeped in giving back. From donating dresses to organizations, including The Princess Project and Brides For a Cause, to holding essay contests for student scholarships, Azazie sees its employees thrive when given the chance to work together to help others who are less fortunate.

We live in an era where every facet of businesses is on full display for the public. This transparency has encouraged organizations across all verticals to build more robust social responsibility programs. It's rare to browse a company website and not see coverage of their philanthropic contributions. But, the companies that take their philanthropic efforts to the next level -- and give for the sake of giving, rather than to attract positive press -- show employees that they actually care about their general happiness and development.

Chirag Kulkarni

CMO of Medly

Chirag Kulkarni is the CMO of Medly, a digital pharmacy in New York City.

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