Corporate citizenship and the nonprofit

By February 13, 2010Volunteerism

Community involvement makes good business sense. Encouraging your employees to be involved in the causes they feel strongly about can strengthen your image as a responsible corporate citizen. Actively supporting employee volunteerism – especially as board and committee leaders – can open up new avenues of professional development and build business contacts. And there are skills in your employee pool that would be very valuable in the nonprofit community – such as those in marketing and sales, technical, legal, finance, graphic design, training, personnel or other professional areas.

Whether your employees gather to support a family in need during the holidays, organize a yard-cleaning team, or volunteer to lead an organization through a capital campaign, an employee training workshop or strategic planning session. Corporate involvement in the nonprofit organizations can be as good for your business as it is for the community.

The annual Golin Harris study of corporate citizenship, Doing Well By Doing Good, shows that customers strongly support companies that are involved in their communities. Employee involvement in nonprofit leadership can help your organization refine its community support goals and focus your corporate giving efforts.

Larger companies make it a regular practice to encourage management-level employees to volunteer for civic or service groups and professional organizations. A myriad of opportunities are available in the nonprofit arena – and can provide similar benefits to the mid-size and smaller company as well.

As a manager, fostering community leadership from your employees requires your direct attention. If you are actively encouraging your employees to be involved with a service group or make their skills or leadership available to a nonprofit board or committee, your organization should support their time to do so. You may even choose designate employee supported organizations as the focus of your charitable giving.

The benefits to nonprofits and the communities they serve are obvious. Nonprofits are not always able to pay for the services and leadership their volunteers provide.

How do you foster such involvement?

Look for leadership opportunities through your own networking contacts and recommend your executives for volunteer leadership or committee positions (if they haven’t found their own). Make it clear that you support their taking some time from their work day each month to pursue these opportunities.

Many executive-level staff are called upon to take nights and weekends away from their families for their jobs. It can be difficult for them to justify taking personal time for volunteerism. Make it clear that you support their efforts by allowing time during the work day for board or committee meetings (many employees will also gladly then devote some of their own off-work time for volunteer activities for organizations in which they have become heavily involved). Ask that, in return, they share some of the organization’s accomplishments with your other staff at retreats or in company bulletins. Make it clear that they are still accountable for their professional responsibilities.

Develop a matching program, encouraging philanthropy by allowing your employees-through your support-to double their gifts to their favorite organizations.

Assume your employees are as careful with their own contributions as you are with yours and encourage them to give of their finances as well as their time by matching their gifts to nonprofits. You will find that your company’s corporate giving strategy develops a focus based upon the people whose skills you rely upon.

Nonprofit organizations rely heavily on the good will of their volunteers’ employers. Many savvy nonprofits will acknowledge this directly, sending letters of thanks or hosting events to say thank you. The benefits to the community in which you do business can reap very real results, as your company develops a relationship as a strong and responsive corporate citizen.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Maks says:

    One reason this quoteisn continues to be debated, I think, is because there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. A new or small non-profit, maybe even one that has a very narrow niche, may need only those who donate their time and expertise. An example that comes to mind that I am familiar with is a youth summer-stock theater group. The strongest argument in my mind for requiring a give-or-get dollar amount for board membership is when the board is active in raising financial support. It is easier to ask someone to support a mission which you have already committed your own money to. Personally, I would trade a member fully committed and passionate about the mission over one who has made a financial contribution any day. The key is finding those unique individuals. Should you find one who can be on fire about the work and give financial support, that is a real win. The rest have to be nurtured.

  • admin says:

    “Personally, I would trade a member fully committed and passionate about the mission over one who has made a financial contribution any day.”

    Wouldn’t someone who is fully committed and passionate about the mission give of their financial resources as well as time and expertise? I think every board member should be asked for a contribution, although that’s not specifically what this blog is about. It’s about why it makes good sense for companies to encourage board membership from within their ranks.

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