When an entrepreneur first starts their business, it often becomes their sole focus. They become preoccupied with finding the right team and growing the company as quickly as possible. But it’s important to remember what’s going on outside of the company as well.
That’s why when Dan Moceri and Greg Lernihan decided to start Convergint Technologies, a service-based systems integration company, they wanted to prioritize giving back to their community.
“That value has guided our social responsibility policy from the start,” said Moceri. “As we grew and started to think about how to truly be socially responsible, we recognized that while we are a global company, business is done on a local basis. Our colleagues are the ones who understand their communities’ true needs.”
Today, Convergint Technologies celebrates their social responsibility by closing their offices once a year to volunteer their time and services. Each location chooses a cause from their community. During this year’s event, 2,345 employees supported 64 different organizations around the country.
While this method of corporate social responsibility works for Convergint Technologies, it may not be best for every organization. Here are three tips inspired by other successful corporate social responsibility programs to help you determine how to give back:
1. Let employees lead the way.
You can’t really call it volunteering if employees are forced to participate. This is why it’s important for employees to be involved in the planning and implementation of a corporate social responsibility program. This way, they can focus on causes that matter to them, instead of being told which charities are worthwhile.
For tech PR firm Hotwire, this meant giving employees complete control of their Hotwire Social Impact program.
“This initiative was an entirely employee-driven effort, from development to implementation,” said Aidan Lukomnik, head of Hotwire Social Impact. “Our employees started the program as a way of driving social responsibility by partnering with those organizations that are already impacting our communities.”
Team members at Hotwire can then find ways to volunteer their PR skills or get involved with chosen organizations in other ways. As a result, morale has increased and employees feel like they’re really contributing to their community.
2. Create a culture of caring and giving.
Unfortunately, not everyone prioritizes social responsibility. If a company wants to attract employees who are dedicated to giving back to their community, it needs to have a culture built around caring for people.
For Ultimate Software, a human capital management solutions company, giving back has always united the team.
“Knowing we are in a position where giving ourselves has the chance to make a difference for others is truly rewarding for all of us,” said Vivian Maza, chief people officer of Ultimate Software. “At the end of the day, we’re people helping people, and that’s what ‘doing the right thing’ means.”
Because of their caring culture, employees typically get behind causes that personally affect their colleagues.
For instance, in 2009, an employee’s father was killed by a drunk driver. To support the employee and her cause, the entire company got involved with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. They’ve been a lead sponsor for MADD events for the past six years and have raised $1.25 million to date.
3. Make formal commitments.
It’s easy to get distracted and put volunteering on the back burner. But time goes by and companies forget they ever intended to get involved with a cause. However, if there’s a formal, public commitment, organizations are more likely to follow through.
This is why companies like Okta, a tech company that securely connects people with the apps they use at work, have decided to pledge one percent of their time, equity, and product to helping out the community.
“As a pre-IPO company, taking the pledge was a signal to Okta’s employees, our customers, and our communities that giving back is a core value,” said Erin Baudo Felter, executive director of Okta for Good. “It’s a great model because it enables us to scale our philanthropic efforts as our company grows.”
One way to track whether or not a company is meeting its community service pledge is to use tools like Causecast, which make it easy for employees to find out about volunteering opportunities and track the hours and donations they give.
You can also strive to become a certified B Corporation, a company that has reached the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance. Organik SEO, a digital marketing agency, recently received their certification.
“The social benefits of the B Corporation certification extend to the entire business,” said Julien Brandt, the company’s CEO. “We found early on that a large percentage of prospective employees wanted to work for a company that connects to a larger purpose and social responsibility.”
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.