4 Ways Companies Can Foster a Culture of Giving Back Giving to those in need helps your community and builds bonds within your organization.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty rough year in a lot of ways. The global economy took a significant gut-punch with an unprecedented level of unemployment, and news broadcasts highlighted record numbers of people turning to food banks for support. Maybe you know somebody who has lost their job this year, or maybe you've found yourself in that unfortunate boat.
If that's not the case, count yourself lucky, and do what you can to put a little bit more good out into the world. The holiday season — and specifically December — accounts for 30 percent of annual giving, but building a company culture where giving back is a year-round occurrence has numerous benefits. For starters, it just feels good to make a positive difference and that positivity trickles down through employees. Companies that regularly participate in philanthropic causes report happier employees. As you may very well already know, happier employees make for more productive employees (13 percent more productive to be exact) and overall, a more productive and successful business.
Giving back is good for your brand -- plain and simple
Besides the impact of helping others -- the most important reason to give -- and overall happier employees, businesses that embrace the philanthropic spirit are regarded in a higher value by consumers. As former St. Louis Rams player Torry Holt points out, regarding the NFL's relationship with United Way, "the act of giving back evokes emotion and fosters an authentic connection." It's that sort of relationship that today's consumers take notice of in a business. According to a 2016 survey, the majority of millennials prefer companies that actively give to charity.
Related: 4 Ways Your Company Benefits From Giving Back
When a company aligns itself with charitable causes it's not just benefiting the direct recipients of that giving, but its employees, and customers. So now that we've touched upon the benefits of creating a culture of giving within a business, how can leaders go about actually weaving it into their company?
1. Volunteer days
Encouraging a spirit of giving in your employees shouldn't be difficult and there's a good chance many of them already have causes that they're passionate about. One of the best ways to fuel team members' passions for these causes is through a day -- or even week -- of volunteering. The concept is simple and incredibly effective: a business sets aside a certain number of days where employees are given time to volunteer with the charity of their choice.
Some companies may simply allow employees to pick any organization to work with, while others may offer a selection of charities or nonprofits for employees to choose from. Team leaders may also choose to go with a majority rule and have employees vote on which charities the company wants to align itself with for volunteer work. Building volunteer days into a business not only builds camaraderie between employees but foster relationships within the community.
2. Lend your resources
Another big way that companies can make a positive impact in their communities is by taking the pro-bono route and lending their resources free of charge. If your business has some extra space that's not being used on the weekends or at night, consider reaching out to a nonprofit and offering it.
Related: Here Are Legitimate Fundraisers Helping Damaged and Destroyed Small Businesses
One of the most beneficial ways that a company can offer its resources is through the knowledge of its employees. Whether it's by offering a company's time through a mentorship program (such as graphic design) or through a pro-bono service (such as legal advice or tax preparation, for instance) for those less fortunate, these acts of charitable giving can build meaningful relationships and have a dramatic impact on the lives of others.
3. Get your customers involved
We've already touched on the fact that consumers view charitable companies in a more positive light, so why not get those customers involved in the giving? It's easy for a company to simply write a check and hand it over to a charity, but it's more inclusive if they bring their customers into the act. Company matching programs are a fantastic way of doing this and with the right structure, can be a robust way of generating substantial fundraising.
Another way to go about involving your customers is by encouraging recurring donations to a nonprofit. Applications like Donorbox or GoFundMe make it incredibly easy for businesses to incorporate giving into their existing website. Giving incentives that include the consumer not only can provide much needed financial support, but build a stronger connection between a business and its customer base.
4. Become an event sponsor
Sponsoring a charitable event in the community is another way businesses can both lend their support and weave a spirit of philanthropy into the existing company culture. There are endless ways a company can choose to go about sponsoring a community event. Simply making a financial contribution is probably the most common — and oftentimes the most needed — but even with that, there are options: raffles, silent auctions, etc.
Many times charitable events will also need volunteers or a place to host an event, so again, there are a variety of paths a business can choose to go down when it comes to sponsoring an event. Whether it's financially, or through its resources, when a company aligns itself with a charitable event, it's showing a level of commitment to the community it serves.
Related: 3 Ways to Give Back That Don't Require a Financial Investment
Business leaders should look at giving back as an investment and apply a similar ROI strategy when choosing how to give, just as they would any business decision. Building a culture of giving within your business shouldn't be complicated and incorporating several different strategies is going to yield the best results — both externally and internally.