Since founding FinancialForce.com in 2009, one of my main missions for the company and its employees has been to remain humble, have gratitude and give back wherever and whenever possible. Like the majority of businesses, we don’t have billions of dollars on hand to donate to charity, so instead we give something just as valuable -- our time.
While this sounds simple enough, creating sustainable and long-lasting, “time-oriented” social responsibility programs into a business, and then actually getting employees to voluntarily participate in them, is no easy feat. As much as people want to work for a socially responsible company ( 79 percent, in fact), it’s up to a company’s leadership team to guide them through the process.
With so many entrepreneurs trying to effectively navigate this arena, particularly considering how important that arena has become to talent acquisition and retention, I'll share my top tips for building social responsibility directly into a company.
1. Embed social responsibility your company's foundation.
When social responsibility is made a critical aspect of a company’s identity, it’s much easier to grow it alongside the business. I learned this early on through the establishment of FinancialForce4Good, our company’s global, philanthropic arm, whose goal is to make a positive impact on the local communities where our employees live and work.
By making a concerted effort to involve employees in time-oriented activities such as volunteering at food banks and blood drives, or helping to build Habitat for Humanity homes (among many other projects), we found that FinancialForce4Good became integral to our company’s unique culture.
Truly, our employees said they felt a sense of pride for the things they accomplished together, which in turn inspired others to get involved. As a result, our philanthropic efforts became much more sustainable in the long run.
2. Create an official committee to spearhead volunteer opportunities.
Finding, tracking and participating in volunteer opportunities is time-consuming. Without people to manage these activities, volunteering will quickly fall by the wayside. FinancialForce4Good gave us the opportunity to create an “official committee” of individuals responsible for research, partnerships and organizing volunteer programs for the company.
Individuals on the committee are available as a resource for employees with questions about upcoming volunteer opportunities, and recommendations for new programs. Now, joining the committee shouldn’t be a permanent endeavor; I’d recommend rotating people in and out on an annual basis (unless, of course, people want to stay on!). This ensures that no one becomes burnt out on the planning side and that there are always fresh ideas and opportunities coming to the table.
3. Make social responsibility a social endeavor.
Company philanthropy should feel like a privilege, not a chore. Entrepreneurs should set out to instill a corporate mindset that volunteering at work is fun! It should be a time that employees value, a time when they can step away from the chaos of their workday and get to know people outside of their departments, forge new bonds and help their local communities.
Not only will this "break from work” help improve the world around us, it will also create a stronger sense of teamwork and company culture. In addition, this mindset will help employees find value in their company that simply cannot be achieved by an orientation session, office party or quarterly business review.
Setting time aside for employees to come together and give back to the community (once a quarter, at least) boosts morale, helps them reconnect with society and inspires them to do more good.
For me, it’s been incredibly rewarding to see what our employees have accomplished by merely giving their time and support to their communities across the globe. For anyone thinking about starting a business, I urge you to make social responsibility a priority from day one. You won’t regret it!
For those with established companies looking to make more of a social impact, it’s not too late. Building a program that encompasses these three tactics is a great place to start.