With Christmas around the corner, the spirit of giving is stronger than ever.
However, it’s not just individuals and households volunteering time and money to those in need, the impact of businesses in the volunteer sector is quickly rising.
While the giving culture is most prominent in large companies that have large reserves of cash, small business owners and sole entrepreneurs like you can have a powerful influence on your community.
As a for-profit business, you can use your creativity to come up with channels for you and your employees to invest time, money, resources, and even pro bono services to those who need it. This type of culture not only enriches your community, it has an amazing effect on your business as well.
As with everything else, the hardest part of going forward with an idea is the setup phase. That’s why I’m going to give you some advice on cultivating a giving culture in your business, which can be felt all year round.
Why is a giving culture important?
Before you start cultivating a giving culture in your business, you need to ask yourself why it is important. After all, you do not want to waste time and money on a project that offers no real benefits to you or anyone else.
The good news is that a giving culture is important on so many levels.
On an individual level
Here’s a somewhat selfish question; what does giving benefit you as an individual? The answer is simple; giving makes you feel good. Even when you are giving selflessly, you will be rewarded with the gift of joy.
Making a difference in somebody else’s life makes us feel good, and that sounds pretty great to me.
On a receiving level
We’ve all needed help at one point or another in our lives, and some of us have needed help more than others. At the other end of the time, effort, and money you give, is a person in need.
When you give, someone benefits. It could be an ailing child, an elderly person without a home, a traumatized individual living on the street, a family about to be evicted, an animal shelter with too few hands, a neighborhood full of rubbish, or a person who has not eaten for days.
Give selflessly; however little you give, someone is better for it.
On an employee level
When you encourage your employees to engage in activities that will benefit the community at large, you give them a chance to bond outside of the office. This is not only fun for them, but it also allows them to develop respect and compassion for one another.
On a business level
As I mentioned above, a giving culture helps employees develop respect and compassion for one another. It also builds team work and opens up communication networks across departments and individual roles.
This type of team moral will eliminate an ‘us vs them’ mentality within your business. This spells great benefits for business efficiency and general atmosphere. Sounds pretty perfect to me!
On a customer level
You already know that customers are not faceless individuals; their demographics and psychographics make them unique to you and your business. They have names, residences, families, jobs, hobbies, and pain points. They also have personal values that more often than not resound with yours.
When you dedicate time to promoting a giving culture among your ranks, it resonates well with your customers. They can feel good about your business, and they can gain confidence and trust in what you have to offer.
On a social level
Almost all of us will give once in our lives. Maybe it’s giving some cash to someone by the side of the road, volunteering at a food pantry, or spreading awareness for a good cause.
When we individually dedicate out time, effort, and resources towards something we believe in, we make an impact.
Now imagine the force of an entire business dedicating time, effort, and money towards a common goal. The chances of driving change and creating a positive impact is huge. It is definitely easier to achieve a goal together rather than alone, and there is no social issue that can withstand this force.
P.S. What if all 7 billion of us swept the road outside our doors, wouldn’t the world be a much cleaner place?
On a community level
One way to engage with your community is to fight for a cause that rings true to both you and them. By creating a giving culture within your business, you can identify a way to connect with those around you. Use your standing to raise awareness for an issue, and use your resources to push for a resolution to that issue.
Become a respected member of your community rather than a faceless business whose only focus is meeting a deadline.
How can you cultivate a giving culture within your business?
A common misconception among entrepreneurs is that a business culture can automatically be enforced. Yes, you can walk into your office tomorrow and declare that you will be raising funds for cancer screening, but what happens next week, will your employees participate again?
Instilling the culture of giving and volunteering is not immediate. It takes time and effort, and it might turn you grey if you do not know what you are doing. Even with 5 people working in your business, frustration will ensue.
That is why you need to take the appropriate steps to develop a plan that is supported by every employee in your business. A plan that meshes with your mission and vision, and which will drive you and your employees to do better.
Here is a step by step guide on cultivating a giving culture within your business.
STEP 1: It starts with you
If you want your business to have a strong giving culture, then you need to check yourself. As a leader, you need to be the strongest advocate for giving back. Your passion and beliefs will inspire your employees, and your actions will push them to get engaged.
Culture starts with you, so make sure you are ready to see this through.
STEP 2: Get your people together
The people who will be the largest embodiment of your giving culture are your employees. That is why you need to get them together and discuss the issues they are passionate about. What drives them? What causes do they care about?
People will be most passionate about the causes that are closest to their heart, so cultivate a giving culture around a cause that you and your employees care about.
STEP 3: Identify key projects
Once the collaborative process has yielded a list of causes that your business can get behind, then it’s time to narrow down your focus. You should select key projects that fit within the goals and mission of your business.
You can start off with just one project, but as your capabilities grow you can increase the number of causes that your business supports. Furthermore, you can choose one cause and come up with multiple ways you can contribute to that cause.
E.g. if your cause is ending hunger in your community, your business can encourage employees to donate food to a local food pantry on a weekly or monthly basis.
Additionally, you can provide time off each month for your employees to volunteer at the pantry.
STEP 4: Get other people involved
As I mentioned above, there are multiple ways of giving to a cause. In fact, your business does not need to spend huge amounts of money to make an impact. Apart from volunteering time to a cause, you can use these channels to make a difference:
1. Partner with a foundation- There are thousands of foundations across the world that focus on alleviating poverty, supporting the girl child, helping victims of abuse, giving assistance to veterans, providing support to the ill, and cleaning up our oceans, to name a few.
You can partner up with a foundation that reflects your values, and donate money, resources, or time to this foundation.
For example, New York Cares is a foundation that tackles social issues around the state. You can select an issue that you are passionate about and then encourage your employees to volunteer in a New York Cares program that tackles the issue. You can also donate money to the cause.
2. Host an event- Another way to get behind a cause is by hosting an event that raises awareness and funds. For example, if your cause is diabetes awareness, then you can hold an annual dinner where the issue is discussed, and where the community can contribute money to the cause.
You can then donate the funds to an established foundation, or use it to fund your own program that tackles the issue.
3. Sponsor a cause– Every year in Kenya tens of thousands of people participate in the Mater Heart Run. The run is held in several towns, including Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu. The purpose of this run is to raise awareness and money for children with heart ailments that require surgery.
This is the perfect opportunity for businesses to provide sponsorship for the worthy cause. While individuals provide small donations and buy t-shirts, schools and businesses can provide an even bigger sponsorship amount. Whether you own a radio station or a security company, sponsorship can help cultivate a giving culture.
4. Create a value-driven program- The channels we’ve discussed above involve partnering with an established foundation. However, you can create a charity/volunteer program within your business that supports a cause.
For example, Paysavvy doesn’t address the issue of hunger among the homeless by donating to a food pantry. Instead, the employees of this Vancouver-based software company regularly hand out bagged lunches in the neighborhood that their office is located in.
5. Take part in a matching gift program– Another donation channel that you can pursue is a matching gift program. The idea is simple; your employees contribute what they can, and your business matches the amount.
There are numerous companies that take part in matching gift programs, and even though it seems like something unique to large companies, small businesses can take advantage of similar programs.
6. Provide your businesses product or service- Last but certainly not least, you can offer complementary products or pro bono services.
For example, Downstage Theatre in New Zealand donated 250 tickets for their circus performance to children in care. You can apply this same principle to whatever product or service you offer.
As you can see, many of these channels will require you to get others involved. This will help you develop connections and create an even bigger impact.
STEP 5: Make sure your giving culture is sustainable
What is more fantastic than giving to a great cause? Giving to a great cause over and over. You need to ensure that your giving culture is sustainable, as you do not want to dedicate all your time and energy to a one-off event.
To ensure that your giving culture is sustainable, you need to have a sound economic model that supports continuous giving. So if the social cause involves the business making monthly, quarterly, or annual donations, ensure that you allocate for the necessary funds and resources in the budget.
STEP 6: Take action!
You’ve made your plans, you’ve created a strategy, and you’ve got everyone pumped.
What are you still doing here? You need to stop talking and start doing!
You promised to support a homeless shelter? Make the donation today!
You promised to support a children’s home? Post a schedule that allows employees to volunteer once a month!
You promised to clean up the city streets? Email your customers about a Saturday clean up and get them to show up!
Make things happen; money, resources, and time do not need to be in abundance for you to start.
A culture of giving was instilled in me from the time I was young. This was then encouraged in school and Church, making it a no-brainer for me to donate my time and money whenever I can. This culture takes time to instill on an individual level, and it will definitely take time on a business level.
But it is possible! You can make your voice heard and your impact felt on social issues that plague your community.
Start by hiring people who share the vision of your business, then set up policies that advance social issues, continue by creating goals that your employees are passionate about accomplishing, and follow it up by getting your community involved.
Your business can make profit while making a big difference, so don’t think that these two things are mutually exclusive.
If you found this helpful, share it and then drop me a comment telling me about any the giving culture in your business. Also sign up to the weekly newsletter for first-hand updates on posts.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Laugh, eat, drink, and have fun, and most importantly give a hand up to someone who needs it.
Stay safe, I’ll see you back here in 2 weeks!