Last weekend I spoke with the newest class of MBA students at Christian Brothers University’s Graduate Business Programs’ Spring 2016 Orientation. The discussion centered on trends in corporate philanthropy and cause marketing, along with ways individuals and organizations can become community catalysts by defining their purpose, aligning with causes, and creating processes to make financial and in-kind giving and volunteerism systematic and sustainable.
I’ll save the tips and critical reasons why corporations MUST be physically engaged in their community for future columns, but understand this fact: Increased employee engagement in the community is connected with increased engagement on the job. By weaving purpose into the workday and providing employees opportunities to give back, they will be more productive and connected to your company and our community.
After my presentation, a student asked, “If I work for a large company and want to get engaged in the community, where do I start?” First, ask around your office. Check with an executive, someone in Human Resources, or a Marketing or Communications person to see if your company has a volunteer program in place. If not, connect with a local organization that can assist by matching your personal passion and availability to a cause, like Volunteer Memphis (VolunteerMemphis.org) or Volunteer Odyssey (VolunteerOdyssey.com).
Once you begin volunteering, circle back with your company and share your experiences. Offer to lead a nonprofit tour or volunteer day or invite the Executive Director to come in and speak at a team meeting or lunch. Offering to lead the effort is a great way to show initiative and spark more engagement from fellow employees. It can start small with just a few employees, but ultimately, as you build interest through testimonials, the program could expand and maybe even include opportunities, like modified work schedules, where employees can accrue and use free volunteer hours during the workday.
After giving financially, you can inquire through the Marketing or Community Relations department to see if your company has a gift matching program or request for your employer to contribute to the organization you are serving. You’ll be surprised by how much one person can pave the way for corporate engagement, when you step out and take initiative to lead by example.