Supporting the community outside the office can enrich the community inside it.
There are many reasons why I am a strong proponent of corporate philanthropy beyond the obvious benefits to charitable organizations and their impact on the lives of those in need.
A company that develops corporate-sponsored programs and creates a strong philanthropic culture in the workplace builds lasting partnerships within the community, boosts employee recruitment, fosters engagement, improves retention, and unifies its workforce under an umbrella of shared values.
By giving your employees the opportunity to support their local communities, you offer a unifying purpose beyond boosting sales and market share. They now identify as a team that is affecting change for the better. This quickly begins to transform a loosely aligned workforce into a directed force for community good.
I have seen it here at Lockton, where the philanthropic culture we foster continues to benefit organizations like the United Way, one of the partner beneficiaries we’ve supported globally for over five decades, and other charitable organizations across the nation that individual associates support through their local offices. For years, many of our people in Lockton’s Pacific Series have held leadership positions at nonprofits, some of which include Mustard Seed Ranch, Golden Heart Ranch, Phoenix House California, UCLA Longevity Center, Vision To Learn, and Los Angeles Philharmonic.
During the height of the pandemic, Lockton launched a global philanthropic campaign called the Lockton Cares COVID-19 Community Impact campaign. Lockton’s people raised over $1 million to support over 130 organizations and nonprofits fighting food insecurity, supporting healthcare facilities and first responders, and providing mental health and social services.
Outside of the official campaign, Lockton’s people around the globe stepped up to make a difference in their local communities by donating personal protective equipment to healthcare facilities and delivering meals, gifts, and appreciation to healthcare workers. Seeing the direct impact in their communities was and continues to be a revitalizing experience for them.
Communities Within Communities
Keep in mind that although philanthropy should be strategic, it’s fundamentally personal. No matter where your business is located, and whether you are in one or multiple communities in a single state or many, the deep social needs of each office’s surrounding community are urgent and growing. Furthermore, this community includes the families of your employees and executives as well as customers.
Many, already aware that corporate philanthropy is being adopted by businesses across the globe, may be looking for action on your part. Just last year a Forbes contributor noted, “For corporations, this mainstream public awareness has thrust forward the importance of philanthropy and humanitarianism.”
That is why it is important to build your philanthropic culture to last. You want to make sure beneficiaries are vetted, with a track record of providing the services they claim. An established charitable organization can serve as a foundation for your program to build upon.
Steps to a Creating Philanthropic Culture
Achieving some measure of impact with the chosen charities or causes is essential to a strong philanthropic culture. Here are some tips for cultivating a philanthropic culture at your workplace:
- Ask your team. It is essential that from the beginning this be a bottom-up endeavor. Discuss with your whole team the specific organizations of greatest interest to them, as well as the scope and goals that promise to generate the most involvement. For example, philanthropy and caring about the community are built into Lockton’s workplace culture. Through its ongoing campaign called #LocktonLife, committee members in each local office set a goal and work toward it year-round.
- Create tangible opportunities. It is easy for a company to talk about philanthropy but creating tangible opportunities for your employees to participate requires planning. You may want to research what has worked at similar-size companies in similar areas and industries. Too few opportunities for involvement may create a lag and loss of engagement, while too many may quickly lead to burnout. Use the time and resources that you have as a leader to determine the type and frequency of any company-sponsored volunteer events. And consider incentives, too, such as extra PTO hours in exchange for documented community service. At Lockton, associates are given time off to volunteer on their own and through office-organized volunteer outings.
- Keep everyone informed. Offering opportunities to support community causes will have little impact if no one knows about it. In fact, meager turnouts can have a negative effect. Make sure you keep your employees informed of all of the opportunities and community building you’re doing so that they can contribute where they’re able.
- Sensitivity in communication. Make sure your marketing department and in-house communications teams are promoting events and opportunities to your staff as well as the surrounding community. But be sure to be balanced and sensitive. The beneficiary should always be the focal point, and it’s a short misstep from valid patting oneself on the back to chest-beating.
Charitable giving and civic involvement are extraordinary ways for your company to make a collective impact on the communities it serves. It is also a great opportunity for workplace teambuilding. By integrating philanthropic pursuits into your business goals, you will create a team that shares your values and is committed to improving the lives of others.