Grab a friend from work and go help someone during lunch. Community involvement can be as simple as that. You plus one other person makes a force for good. If a company understands that fact, it can create a multiplier effect over traditional corporate philanthropy.
Companies spend a lot of time trying to centrally plan their corporate charitable giving and community activities. I am all for corporate leadership in communities - the more the better. But a handful of people trying to do managed giving on behalf of a company cannot have the same impact as a broad-based lifestyle of service by its entire staff. It is a subtle mindset shift that can have a tremendously positive impact.
In my early career I worked for companies that had traditional annual campaigns aimed at doing a few big things once a year. There certainly were people who were helped. However today, with all the social communication channels available to all of us, we can have a much broader impact. If our company encourages everyone to follow their heart into the community and take some time to serve, then the collective passion of the entire group can be used to create a continuous wave of community service and giving.
It starts with letting associates know that the company supports them and their personal community passions. Some folks have been impacted by certain medical conditions and they will naturally be drawn to give back to the organizations that helped them. Others have been shaped by financial struggles growing up and have a heart for helping the less fortunate. The reasons are as many as the number of people who work at the company. Embrace that passion, fuel the response.
At Benefitfocus, we have a long list of activities in which we are involved. We try to identify themes that our associates are passionate about and get behind our folks as they serve, donate and share. We organize groups of people to serve together, print t-shirts in support of events and promote the causes in our social media outreach. By doing so, we are able to multiply the time and effort while raising awareness for the particular cause. As our company has grown, it has certainly played a bigger leadership role in the community; but it is our people who make the real difference.
When someone invites their friend from work to participate in a charitable event, they are much more likely to participate than when the company holds the single annual giving campaign. People are connected to each other in a wide array of small groups. Feeding those micro efforts and events is more powerful than trying to do one big thing across the board. Small is the new big in serving and impacting your community. A thousand small things can dwarf one big thing. I am constantly amazed by the array of activities in which our very generous associates are involved. They teach me over and over again about where the needs are and how awesome our folks are in their giving.
I would encourage any business leader to shift from a centralized corporate charity model to a more democratized socially led effort to support the inherent passions of its people. They know what is working in the community. They know where they are giving their time and money. Get behind them, encourage them to take their friends from work and promote it. It builds strength and shared experience within your team. It multiplies your corporate investment and impact. This approach will help you develop many more community relationships than you can make on your own. Plus, the new bonds, memories and all the photos are great!