Tis the season for giving—so is your organization “giving back” in some meaningful way this year? Whether donating to some charitable cause, participating in a local philanthropic effort, or supporting a unique program or initiative that’s making a difference in our world, these and other forms of giving can be extremely powerful and even transformational for you and your people. While the act of giving back is first and foremost all about generating goodwill toward others, there’s a good chance your organization will benefit from kindness, too. Many leaders have found that “giving back” builds company pride. It also changes the lens through which others view their business. The trick is to build employee buy-in and participation by finding a way to give back that genuinely makes sense for your organization. Align any goodwill efforts with your company’s values and vision, and you’ll boost your odds of getting people excited about their participation and growing that crucial give-back momentum.
Interestingly, a number of MAP clients who’ve implemented formal ways for their companies to “give back” have noticed significant changes in their organization. Employee morale is now higher. Productivity has improved. And bottom-line results have increased as well, which means there’s even more giving going on, such as in the case for one company that donates 10% of its profits to a local charity.
Here are three things to keep in mind as you explore what and how your company might give back this year:
Build consensus on what to support. Think twice about dictating to others how you’re planning to have your company contribute or give back. A cause that’s deeply personal to you might have zero meaning to most others. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth supporting, but you’ll get more buy-in and participation if you explain to your people why this is the cause of your company’s choice. Better yet, consider giving your people the choice to choose a worthy cause—give them a few options and let them vote on their favorite. Ask them to think about why it’s not just a good vote for them personally but a good vote for them in regard to what it says from a company standpoint. If you’re outvoted, perhaps you can still stock away some additional percentage of proceeds to contribute to the cause that’s your personal favorite.
Do what’s realistic. Carefully examine what you and your people are capable of doing or giving before you commit to doing it. Overpromising and under-delivering can have dire consequences for an organization. Yet if you do fulfill your promise yet drain and tax your own resources (your staff, money, time, etc.), the backlash there can be bad, too. So whatever you commit to doing, verify that it can be done and done well. Before you say “yes” to any particular cause or effort on behalf of your organization, ask if the effort and any associated demands are realistic at this time. Determine whether the “giving back” is something that can be done without interfering with your vital business. And keep in mind, sometimes it’s the smallest efforts that make the biggest impact.
Give internally. Sometimes there’s a very worthy cause right in front of you, within your own organization. It could be someone battling cancer. It could be an employee whose family has lost their home to a fire. It could be the children of your employees who need academic coaching or professional mentoring as they make their way out of high school, into college, or into the workforce. Helping those you know, particularly within your organization, and encouraging others within your company to do the same can lift everyone up in unimaginable ways. If you don’t know what to do or what possibilities exist, start asking your people a little more about what’s going on in their lives and you’ll probably get more than enough ideas. Look for ways to leverage the skills and talents you have and “give back” by offering those more often to your people. And then invite and challenge them to do the same with one another!
In what meaningful ways have you “given back” or given to others when working for a particular company in the past?