The holiday season is a time for small businesses to show their gratitude by giving back. However, there is tremendous value in contributing to the people and communities that support your growth more than just once a year. Volunteering and connecting your business to social issues year-round raises the visibility of your brand, boosts employee engagement and satisfaction, and helps create a culture of caring that has bottom-line impact.

Being Socially Responsible Improves Engagement

Today’s employees want to work for companies that care. According to a 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey, nearly 90% of employees believe that companies who sponsor volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment. Another study found that philanthropic businesses experience a 13% increase in employee productivity and satisfaction.

Improving your company culture through volunteer activities and charitable donations can also help you retain employees and avoid the costly impact of high turnover. Recent studies by Gallup reveal that 71% of American workers are either not engaged in their jobs or have become actively disengaged, and these workers cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion a year in lost productivity

Strategically integrating social responsibility with your business goals and values gives your staff a greater sense of purpose. Research shows that employees who volunteer are more engaged, and engaged employees are happier, healthier, and perform at a higher level. Creating this kind of positive work environment fosters employees who are 87% less likely to leave their jobs and lets potential hires know you are a company with a heart.

Volunteering Provides Skill-Building Opportunities

Volunteer initiatives provide a meaningful way for employees to use their abilities to help others, as well as the opportunity to develop their professional skills. For instance, partnering with a local non-profit organization to provide skills-based pro bono services gives your staff the chance to apply their expertise in a new environment and broaden their knowledge and relationships.

Creating a culture of social purpose that reinforces the behaviors and beliefs your company values will empower employees to do things they are passionate about and contribute to a stronger, more skilled workforce. Involving your team in a mix of volunteer work and social responsibility efforts ultimately helps them feel more connected to the community and to your company.

Creating a Culture of Giving

Although community involvement has numerous benefits to your small business and the community, making it part of your culture takes considerable focus and effort. Here are some tips for easing your way into a company-wide giving initiative:

Involve Your Employees

Choosing a single cause for the company to champion can be difficult and sometimes divisive. Because each member of your team is unique, it’s unlikely you will be able to identify just one organization that everyone will be enthusiastic about supporting. Many business owners opt to engage their staff in the selection process in an effort to make sure the choice or choices satisfy the broadest range of employees.

One option is to form a committee to survey the team, narrow down the selection, and choose a cause based on a company-wide vote. Another way to champion causes your people care most about is to give them time off during the work day to volunteer with a nonprofit of their choice. You can also access online giving and volunteer management tools like VolunteerMatch and America’s Charities that help companies of all sizes connect their skills with local nonprofit and volunteer opportunities.

Keep it Simple

Whether you choose a charity to support or engage your employees to select one that is meaningful to them, empower your team to organize fundraisers, clothing drives, volunteer days, or whatever is most relevant to the charity’s needs and your company’s values. Don’t be concerned about how much your business can offer. No amount of money, goods, or volunteer time will go unappreciated, so focus on making it meaningful for all involved.

Giving back shouldn’t feel like another work-related task. Create activities that are simple and fun for employees to engage in. Collection drives, contests, and other fundraisers can be scheduled at lunchtime or another designated time during the day. This gives employees a chance to take a break from their work while ensuring they have ample time to complete necessary tasks.

While there must be management support for corporate giving initiatives, often the most successful service projects are driven by employees. Giving people the responsibility for organizing and implementing community service and charitable initiatives allows them to influence the ways in which your business gives back and help shape the overall company culture.

Encourage Teamwork

While many companies acknowledge the value of team-building activities, they often miss the opportunity to include a philanthropic component. One of the most important aspects of community service projects is that employees do them together. Activities that have a service element, like cleaning up a neighborhood park or restocking shelves in the local food pantry, build team morale, camaraderie among coworkers, and relationships between employees in different departments, as well as goodwill for your business in the community.

Engaging your employees isn’t just important during the holidays. Through ongoing volunteer and skills-building programs, you can help neighbors in need and empower staff to give their time and talent. Supporting your people and the things they are passionate about strengthens relationships and builds loyalty, which bodes well when it comes to retention and your small business’s bottom line.

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