Mark Eldridge, CEO of The Start Group, guest wrote this blog piece on advice and lessons learned for businesses that want to make a difference.
An important part of any business has to be profitability. But once profitability is obtained, there should also be a focus on giving back. This doesn't just have to be money either; there are a lot of ways to get involved in helping your community. When we first decided that we wanted to find a way to give back as a company, we made a lot of mistakes. Since that time, we have learned a few things and have the following bits of advice to offer any businesses thinking about increasing their charitable efforts.
- Be selective. Decide on causes that are meaningful to the company. At first, in our desire to give back, we contributed to anything. Our donations and efforts were too small to make a lasting impact. After brainstorming, we identified two causes that we believed in and wanted to support.
- Choose a partner carefully. Once you decide upon a cause or two, look for a partner that can help you. For instance, if you decide to support cancer research, there are a number of organizations that run events and activities in which you can participate rather than going it alone. By building a relationship with these types of organizations, you take a lot of the guesswork out of the process to ensure your efforts are making a difference from the very beginning.
- Get others involved. Make involvement a company-wide initiative. Add incentives like extra vacation time or a gift certificate for participation. We found that once our people had a slight motivation to get involved, the thrill of contributing to a worthy cause pushed them along from there.
- Get creative. While charities always appreciate checks, they need more than that. We were able to volunteer our time and even donate some old office furniture. The partners with whom we have formed the strongest relationships understand our inability to always provide a monetary contribution, but appreciated our unique approaches. This makes both sides feel like it is a partnership and not just a one-time donation.
- Tell everyone about it. Make people aware of your efforts. Taking time, effort and resources from other endeavors and dedicating them to a charity is a noble cause. Your partner may be able to help you publicize, but even if they can't, brag about it. This may seem self-serving, but you're accomplishing two goals: 1) promoting awareness (a big concern of any charitable cause) and 2) perhaps you inspire someone else to get involved. Social media gives us a free, loud voice. What better way to use it?
We found that the benefits of charity were double-sided. Although the goal was to help others, we also ended up helping ourselves. Our employee morale and pride have increased and the activities in which we engaged created an even stronger sense of camaraderie. We sought to give back and received even more.
The Start Group fielded a 20-member team for Mass Mentoring in the 2012 Rodman Ride for Kids, raising close to $30,000, and also partnered with Family Service, Inc. on their holiday party and bowling fundraiser.