Practical Tips for Starting Your Company’s Community Outreach

March 11, 2019

Frequently, business leaders reach out to the goBeyondProfit team asking for practical advice about how to begin or get better at this giving back journey we are all attempting. Georgia business leaders understand that charitable outreach offers vital benefits to the community and their business, but what are the basics to getting it right? 

You’re in good company if you’re wondering how to even get started.

As you begin to craft your plan, we recommend exploring these three key aspects – in any order that suits you. You might already know what issue you want to tackle, or how your company’s generosity will take form. We hope this checklist and stories from your goBeyondProfit peers will help you define your company’s unique path. 

DECIDE WHO TO HELP.  

Look no further than your neighborhood or service area to see what non-profits are listed and what issues are prevalent. Listen to your people about what concerns them.  

Many companies make sure at least some of their giving follows employees’ passions for volunteer activities or support. So, letting employees pick the community partner might not feel “strategic” to the business, but makes good sense in today’s self-directed society.  And it fosters a culture of giving and internal spirit of generosity that benefits your day-to-day operations. 

An equally strategic path involves selecting an organization or issue of focus that reinforces your company’s business or mission. This helps reinforce to your customers what you do and what you stand for… and builds broad awareness influencing folks to buy from and work with you.  Another happy benefit is that employee interactions with the chosen nonprofit or target group might bring fresh thinking back to the day job. 

Questions to consider:

  • Who needs your specific skills or resources, like banks often teach low-income communities financial literacy skills? Arke taps the talents of its people to teach coding skills to individuals incarcerated in a nearby prison. This creative, mutually beneficial contribution offers former inmates a hopeful reentry into the community while also solving a business need for skilled labor. 
  • How could you help your customers or target audience overcome an obstacle to personal success? If your products are sold to mothers, for example, you might want to help low-income moms in your zip code tackle a parenting-related issue. LogistiCare’s core business provides medical transport.  As an extension to their work, the company helps dialysis patients get to and from appointments free of charge in an effort to help fight kidney disease. 
  • How could you broaden ways your company purpose takes effect in Georgia?  Balentine, a financial advisory firm which helps clients manage wealth, extends that mission to their community by finding various ways to ensure underprivileged and homeless youth have the tools they need to escape poverty.

CONSIDER HOW TO HELP.

Writing a check isn’t easy for many companies and employee volunteerism isn’t practical for others. Not a problem.  We hear the stories of companies finding other creative ways to help. You might donate gently used equipment, company services or expertise, or lend your buying power to help a non-profit access needed materials.    

Some questions to consider:

  • What company assets might be valuable to a non-profit serving the community: equipment, supplies, business skills? For instance, Jackson Healthcare makes it a practice to donate underutilized office space to start-up and small nonprofit efforts to help them put their limited financial resources to work for those in need.  
  • Is there a place along your supply chain where you can create mutual benefit for your enterprise and the community?  Sunnyland Farms made the purposeful decision to contract with a local business who hires women recovering from addiction to produce their signature pies, thus helping Sunnyland fulfill product orders while also helping women in their community re-build their lives. 
  • What are the underlying needs holding back the people you care about?  Consider asking your non-profit partner questions about the specific needs preventing success.  Gas South donates needed school supplies to students and evolved their outreach to bring a mobile dentistry unit to the school when they found out dental health was the key issue affecting student attendance.

ENGAGE YOUR PEOPLE.  

A strong community outreach program can be as much about a healthy workplace as a healthy community. Be sure you know what’s on your people’s minds on an issue; don’t make assumptions.  There are generational differences that – if nothing else – reinforce the need for dialogue. Start by engaging your employees, and perhaps customers, too.  Ask what matters to them. Invite them to participate or help organize an effort.   

Modo Modo Agency and Jabian Consulting both built employee volunteerism into the fabric of their business service offerings years ago, and both cite it as foundational to their strong cultures and a differentiator for recruitment. 

What are some ways other companies enhance their culture with volunteerism and giving back? 

  • Include paid volunteer hours 
  • Host in-office or off-campus activities
  • Match employee donations  
  • Encourage projects or one sustained partnership

Thanks for asking and good luck engaging on this important journey.  To see these and other stories from your peers, visit goBeyondProfit online or follow any of our social channels.  Our hats are off to you with high hopes for positive impact in Georgia’s communities….and on your business! 

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