Now that we’ve turned back the clocks and put away the jack-o-lanterns, our thoughts naturally turn to the holiday season. In the United States, Thanksgiving (November 27) is fast approaching, with Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa right on its heels. Whether your family maintains the tradition of sharing what you’re thankful for around the dinner table or you head to a soup kitchen to help hand out turkey dinners, this is the time of year many Americans focus on giving time and money to those in need.
But volunteering and giving should not be compartmentalized, only happening during time off from work. In fact, a study from Deloitte revealed that almost two-thirds of employees answered that they, “prefer to work for a company that provides opportunities for me to apply my skills to benefit non-profit organizations.”
Many small business owners wonder what they can do to encourage this spirit of giving. Understandably, employers don’t want to ask their employees to give of their own money and there is not often room in the business’s budget for charitable giving. But the employees surveyed by Deloitte did not ask their bosses to donate money to charitable causes: over 50% responded that the greatest contribution a company could make is to allow employees to volunteer either professional skills – like helping draft a strategic plan – or in a hands-on fashion – like serving meals or sorting canned goods.
So here are 5 simple ways that any small business can give back to their community – all while encouraging teamwork, professional development and a giving spirit.
Plan a Volunteer Day
Office-wide volunteer days serve a double purpose. Not only do they help those in need in your community, they also build camaraderie and teamwork among your employees. Those morale benefits will help your bottom line when you return to the office. For example, employees from a First National Bank branch volunteered to help an equine therapy program for children with special needs. A day out of the office working together for a common goal helps the community as well as your business.
Vote on a Charity
Another way to help build interest in giving back is to either ask for submissions for your charity of choice or to put forth a few ideas yourself and then ask employees to vote on their favorite. Maybe your idea of the perfect community support program is to fold clothes and sort donations at a local thrift stop, but your employees prefer to be outdoors building a playground. Or maybe you’ve been working with the same charity for years, and your employees know of some start-up services that could use help getting off the ground. Having employee buy-in will increase engagement and excitement in your efforts.
Donate Time and Labor in Your Area of Expertise
Your business is an expert in a field, so you and your employees have skills that very few others possess. Turn those skills into good by donating them back to the community. For example, the Mericle real estate services company donated the use of heavy equipment, materials, and the labor of employees to convert a run down, vandalized former city pool and turn it into a property ready for development. The greatest gift a small business can give to their community is their time and expertise. Whether you work in construction, finance, or any industry in-between, providing your professional services for a charitable organization or cause will not only build your relationship with your employees but also with your community.
Make it Competitive
Simply put, some employees respond best to a competition. Make fundraising or volunteering hours a competition among employees. The prize could be kudos from the whole team, or maybe an extra vacation day to the winner.
Partner with a Larger Movement
We’ve all heard about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but have you heard of Giving Tuesday? In the middle of the same week we all head to doorbuster sales for our holiday shopping, Giving Tuesday helps to focus people on what is really important: helping others. Giving Tuesday is a global movement that also offers resources to learn how to better encourage donations and volunteerism. Or you could participate in the Congress-designated National Day of Service, which occurs every year on September 11. You have plenty of time to ask for nominations and plan for next year!
As you can see, there are many ways to encourage a spirit of giving at your workplace, which in turn will make your employees more satisfied and productive at work. Success at your business is no doubt measured by sales, customer engagement and rising profits. But this time of year in particular we would do well to embrace the mantra of Ralph Waldo Emerson, that “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
As a small business owner, you no doubt expect your employees to do the best they can. By encouraging volunteerism and donations to those in need, you can help your employees be the best they can as well.
During this season of Thanksgiving, how have you motivated your employees to give back? How has this improved your office culture? What is your advice for other managers or business owners who want to start a community engagement program? Leave your comments below!