A company would be wise to research its opportunities to serve in the greater community around it.
The first effort in the research and planning stage of effective corporate philanthropic participation is to carefully evaluate and understand the business it is in and the customer base it serves. If a company does not have a mission statement, it is indeed a good time to formulate and articulate one or review and refine the one it does have. In the process, answer these questions:
- Who are you as a company?
- Who do you serve?
- Where are you at as an organization?
- How are you perceived?
- How do you wish to be perceived?
- Is there a gap?
A mission statement that is understood, closely held, and believed in will help narrow the focus of a company’s philanthropic efforts, allowing it to be fair and symbiotic while providing a return on its investment of time, talent, and treasure.
Next, build a committee or team to review and research the opportunities to serve in the greater community. At this stage of internal understanding as to who you are as a company and where you wish to be, the philanthropic energy will now be most effective. The more voices and input you can solicit internally, the better. The more widely that employees contribute, the deeper they will feel a part of the effort, which will allow them to grow in their held sense of efficacy — the sense of knowing that what they do individually and collectively as a company makes a difference.
A great next step will be to launch out and seek like-minded organizations in which you can now serve. Interview executive directors and board members of nonprofits to get a clear understanding of their missions, goals, and objectives. Carefully review how they align with yours. A primary goal is to find a mutually beneficial fit for the greater good of all.
It may be wise to introduce key team members to groups such as Business Volunteers Unlimited. Groups such as BVU can help to facilitate board matches and can consult and train around building effective use of volunteering efforts. Team projects can produce great results and help build great leaders in a company and in the community. Combining an internal review with outside help can produce brilliant benefits for many decades to come.
The ability to provide fertile soil in the volunteer arena is an area in which companies can grow and mature beyond the original intent of simply giving back. It is a great time to watch leaders emerge from this broad-based training and participation in their communities. The sharpened skills will only make for a better working team day to day.
As a leader in a technology firm, I have witnessed companies choose us as a service provider more and more over time because of our growth and maturity as an organization — a direct result of our serving in the greater community. Where I work, we speak of this phenomenon, internally and externally, as the BlueBridge Difference. At the end of the day, when a customer decides who he or she wants to do business with, if technologies and operational excellence are close, the “difference” is in the people and how they are connected.
Delivering repeatedly over time builds credibility.