My local paper recently published an article titled “Make 2018 the Year of the Nonprofit.” The piece described how organizations can participate in their communities by volunteering and gave suggestions of some local volunteer opportunities. The article also discussed about joining a network or training group to strengthen the nonprofit community. Great ideas. It made me wonder how many small businesses throughout the U.S. are positively impacting their communities.
According to a 2017 volunteerism survey done by Deloitte, “. . . creating a culture of volunteerism may boost morale, workplace atmosphere and brand perception.” What small business doesn’t what that? So you may be asking, “How do I as a small business get involved in my community and still meet all of the needs of my business?” Here are some great tips to get your small biz on the road to positively impacting your community:
Know how deep you want to go:
The business’ leader(s) needs to define how involved they wanted to be involved in community service with and through their organization. Do you want to have a year-round group commitment, individual commitments (ie: paid volunteer day), or a once a year volunteering extravaganza? Just remember, it’s not about the size of the commitment – – – it is about what makes sense for the organization’s values, employees, workload, and bottom line. The great thing about community service programs is that any amount of “giving back” makes an impact.
Vet what needs to be vetted:
As I found out while working with smaller organizations, owners and top leaders are often hesitant because they do not have answers to potential risk-related questions. This problem has an easy answer if someone is willing to invest time: Ask your questions. Here are three concerns leaders have raised to me about this hesitation.
- Are you worried about liability insurance coverage for employees volunteering? A phone call to your insurance agent can answer this.
- Are you concerned with how to handle the PR (positive or negative) that may come from participating? Talk to your in-house PR or reach out to a connection who can answer the question.
- What if we can’t do this next year? Be open and honest with employees if business reasons get in the way of making the program long-term.
Determine the cause(s) you want to support:
Depending on the path taken, causes to support can be local, national, or international. Many groups I have worked with chose to work with local groups or national groups with local offices so employees can see the impact of the work in their communities. Other groups have worked local and added support to fill in gaps or to respond to a national crisis.
It also helps to listen to your employees when determining where to direct your business’ support. I worked with a business who had an employee’s spouse die of breast cancer. All of their efforts went to supporting breast cancer awareness and prevention.
Support multiple nonprofits or support one. Do what makes the most sense to align with the business’ values and people commitment.
Get employees involved from the beginning:
Employees may not be game at first to devote their free time to help others. One group I worked with had some employees who were leery at the beginning to volunteer while others could not wait at the chance to jump in. To build employee support for the program, get employee input from the beginning. Solicit suggestions of places to volunteer. Internally market your program and its success stories.
Here is my real-life example. At one organization, I was part of a team that decided to kick off our volunteer services at Sunday a night meal program hosted by a church. We cooked most of the food and served it. This first outing resulted in mostly our initial group members volunteering. And guess what? We had a blast and impacted the community.
We shared our stories and increased on participation the next time we volunteered there. Remember, unless your business is simply writing a check as a community service offering (which is terrific and nonprofits can use funding), people are going to need to do the volunteer work. I have worked with businesses who also allowed family members to participate. Remember, the lower the number of people helping, the more work for the souls who stepped up.
There will be some employees who do not, choose not, or refuse to participate. And that is fine. The great part about these programs is generally they have a positive impact even for those people who do not participate.
One last thought:
No matter the type of goodwill offered by the business, genuine top leader participation is important to the credibility of the program.
AKA: “Your boss thinks it is okay and worth your time to participate. Go for it.”
To jump start the thought process, I am sharing some successful work community service “one and done’s” or programs where I contributed. You will see these are not necessarily long-term programs and do not require a large number of employees. Yet each one had an immediate impact on the community.
- Raised funds and walked with twelve employees to support children’s charities.
- Collected household items from not only the organization, but the community to support rebuilding after a natural disaster.
- Attended as a group a fundraiser supporting animal welfare.
- Adopted families in need, providing gift baskets filled from employee donations and a cash donation from the business.
Has your small business participated in a cool community initiative? Share your great stories and ideas here. We will share them in a future blog.
Any size business who wants to do more in their community can. Start by calling local nonprofits and check out resources available in your area that share nonprofit needs. The Volunteer Center of Mchenry County is an example of a resource available in my geographic area. Additional, feel free to reach out to us directly to talk about possibilities in your area as well as setting up and managing community service initiatives.
I have seen the power small business community partnerships can make. Is the timing right for your business to get more involved in your community?