How to Make Giving Back Part of Your Company Culture

Whether your company is big or small, delving into a corporate giving plan can feel daunting. However, making giving back part of your company culture not only makes employees feel good, but helps boost company morale, culture and even loyalty. Recent research from the consulting firm Great Place to Work discovered an important relationship between the way employees feel about their company’s philanthropic efforts and their engagement in their work.

Among the 357,000 people surveyed, those who reported a positive experience of giving back at work were four times more likely to put in extra time to get their work done. These respondents were also more likely to be strong brand ambassadors, willing and eager to express pride in their companies and more likely to want to stay with their employers.

Although corporate giving and community involvement are beneficial to employee engagement, creating a corporate giving plan is difficult for any company. Here are some things you can do today to make giving back a part of your company culture and even make it fun.

Focus on Causes Employees Care About

Because each person is unique, there’s no single cause that all are equally enthusiastic to be involved in, and choosing one focus for the organization to champion can be divisive or demotivating for some employees. One way to champion causes your people are passionate about is to give them volunteer time off to serve a nonprofit of their choice during working hours. Giving them this freedom to step away from the office to make a difference to a cause of their choosing increases their engagement level and connection to company, which in turn increases their productivity.

Also, most people are passionate about serving those in their daily lives. Companies can harness that innate drive by starting an employee compassion fund that employees can contribute to in order to help coworkers with unforeseen financial hurdles, like an unanticipated surgery or a house flooding. An employee compassion fund perpetuates the natural reflex we all have to kick into giving mode when people we’re close to run into trouble.

Make Giving Back Easy (and Fun)

Giving back shouldn’t feel like a company directive employees dread. Rather, make it simple, fun and accommodating to their work responsibilities. At CHG Healthcare, we host an annual Making a Difference Week dedicated to raising money for local charities. The week is full of fun activities managed by employee volunteers that includes everything from a pizza-eating contest to a Hot Wheels race to a foursquare competition. Employees can choose to participate either by being a contender in the competition or sponsoring a contender, with all the money raised going to charity.

These activities are all scheduled during lunchtime to give employees a reprieve from work, while still making sure they have the time for their day jobs. And encouraging employees to take time away from their desks helps build camaraderie among coworkers and relationships between employees of different departments.

Though there should be executive buy-in and support for corporate giving, the most successful service projects are driven by employees. Handing them the reins for community service and fundraising initiatives not only empowers them to drive the ways in which the company gives back, but shape the overall company culture.

Serve Together

The most important part of company-sponsored service initiatives is that employees do them together. While a lot of companies believe in doing team-building activities, many miss the opportunity to include a philanthropic component. Activities that have a service element achieve all the same benefits of team-building exercises, like creating greater connections, boosting productivity and increasing engagement, while building goodwill for your company in the community. These hybrid service-team activities could include everything from serving at the Ronald McDonald house and cleaning up a local park to doing pro-bono marketing or advertising work for nonprofits.

Once you’re ready, you can expand these local volunteer activities to international ones. In 2016, we introduced international and domestic humanitarian trips as a subsidized opportunity for employees to get involved in. The impetus for this came from asking employees what they are looking for in terms of making a difference, even outside their everyday spheres of influence. Since starting the program, dozens of employees have participated in the trips that have included locations such as Peru, Mexico, Kenya, Ecuador and the Navajo Nation in Arizona.

Why Does It Matter?

For us, one the greatest benefits of making giving back part of our culture is how it has helped us retain talent. When you invest in your people—and support the things they’re passionate about, both inside and outside of the office—they’re more loyal to the company and they’re going to stick around. In a relationship business like ours, the longer people stay, the stronger relationships they make with customers and the more the company grows. It’s a win for everyone.

Kevin Ricklefs is senior vice president of talent management at CHG Healthcare Services.

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