It’s absolutely true: spending time giving back to your community can provide tremendous benefits—not just for the people and organizations you are helping, but for your personal well-being and even for your business.
For me, my passion for giving back has grown exponentially over the years that I’ve been a volunteer at the Boston Living Center (BLC), New England’s largest community providing resources for people living with HIV/AIDS. In 2012, the BLC became part of Victory Programs, a Boston-based nonprofit organization providing programs that service families and individuals living with substance use disorders, homelessness, and chronic health issues.
I first got involved back in 2010, when I had the opportunity to serve on the BLC’s board of directors. I saw this as a chance to make a difference, but what I got in return was far more rewarding than I ever expected. For the past few years, I have also volunteered at the BLC’s annual Celebration of Life Thanksgiving Dinner. This event started at the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1989. Today, it continues to be a community tradition, where those living with the disease can come together and celebrate life with peers going through similar challenges while enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings.
Whether you’ve volunteered with a local organization for years or you’re just starting out, the good you can do, no matter the scale, is truly limitless. And if you can turn your desire to give back into a firm-wide team-building initiative, that’s even better! Below, I’ll share a few tips for getting started, as well as several ways that your firm’s commitment to giving back can help you attract and retain employees and build your brand.
A quote I read recently said, “Time is your most precious gift . . . when you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never give back” (Rick Warren). We are all very busy, and time is so valuable to us—and to those to whom we choose to donate it. Now that you’ve decided you want to spend time volunteering, how can you determine where you’ll volunteer?
Do your research. One of the best ways to get involved in giving back to your community is to start local. Do some research on organizations in your area, and determine which ones offer volunteer opportunities that would be a good fit for you and your firm.
To give you some inspiration, here are just a few causes that are always in need of volunteers:
Local food banks
Animal rescue shelters
Habitat for Humanity
Reach out to clients and staff. Another approach is to ask your employees about the organizations with which they are already involved. Engage with your clients to find out what groups and causes they’re passionate about. Identifying and calling upon the members of your staff or your client base who are already experienced volunteers can help you get your giving back initiatives off the ground even faster.
Put it on the calendar. Once you determine the right community organizations for you and your firm, create a community service calendar, and set a day of giving to get your staff and clients involved. You can do this by picking a different organization to support each quarter or by letting team members choose a cause that’s close to their heart.
Benefits to Your Business
In addition to the personal satisfaction you’ll receive from donating your time and service to your community, there are a number of business-related benefits to consider as well.
Team building. Coming together as a firm for the common good can help your employees build bonds and develop friendships, which, in turn, can make your office an even more welcoming place for them—and your clients—to enjoy.
Take Commonwealth’s Chemo Caps for Kids initiative, for example. This program started back in 2009, when an employee’s son was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was undergoing chemotherapy. Members of an existing knitting club realized they could help by knitting caps for pediatric cancer patients at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who were experiencing hair loss side effects. The knitting club that started with a few team members in the Waltham office grew quickly, spreading across the country to our San Diego office and to advisor offices as well. All skill levels were welcome—some already knew how to knit, and some wanted to learn, but all gathered together to make a difference in those young patients’ lives. To date, Commonwealth employees, advisor offices, friends, and family have knitted more than 5,350 caps for children at hospitals throughout the country.
By working as a team, there’s no limit to the good your firm can do for your community. Start brainstorming with your staff and see what ideas you can come up with!
Volunteer time off (VTO). A great employee benefit you can provide to your staff is dedicated time off for volunteering. As your business grows and you look to attract the best and brightest, as well as retain employees, your position on community involvement will become more important. Showing you support your employees’ desires to give back by allowing them a full work day to volunteer speaks volumes. According to Glassdoor Economic Research on what drives employee satisfaction, volunteer time off ranks second, following paid time off. Employees want to feel empowered and involved in their community, and VTO is a great benefit to support them.
Building your brand. Consumers consider more than service quality and prices when choosing a brand. They consider a brand’s commitment to social responsibility and are more likely to be won over by those who give back and participate in their community.
So, what does your brand stand for? When you give your elevator pitch of what you do, is community involvement included? When you think of your ideal clients, is social responsibility important to them? As you continue to define your brand positioning throughout the life of your business, making giving back initiatives a cornerstone of your firm’s identity can help you attract the right kind of attention and the best-of-the-best employees and investors.
Share the Good
As you and your staff participate in community giving back events, remember to have fun, take pictures, and get to know those you are helping. Share photos, quotes, and stories on your website and social media pages. There are many trending hashtags you can use in your posts to help them gain traction:
It goes without saying that giving back to your community is important—not just to those in need, but to your staff, clients, prospects, and brand as well. Above all, whether it’s by donating your time or simply making a charitable donation, it feels good to have an impact. And once you get started, I’m sure that—like me—you’ll soon catch the giving back bug!
This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.