How Companies Are Building their Company Culture Around Philanthropy Work

Amazon recently announced a new addition to their Seattle headquarters: a 47,000 square-foot homeless transitional shelter called Mary’s Place. The shelter, scheduled to open in 2020 will provide housing to more than 200 people each night and is set to span half of an 8-story building.

This company, once criticized for a lack of corporate social responsibility involvement, will now be situated right next to one of its biggest philanthropic efforts. Currently, Amazon is constructing a 23-story office building on the very same block as Mary’s Place.

Though Amazon’s efforts are commendable and absolutely sure to help those in need, integrating philanthropy work into company culture doesn’t have to span this level of depth. Companies all over are finding ways to develop a workplace with a cause and a way to demonstrate its commitments to community.

Team Volunteering

One of the best ways to begin developing a philanthropic company culture is to ingrain CSR into your daily work habits through Volunteerism. This effort allows your workforce to converse and collaborate on projects while seeing firsthand how your time investments can influence a community.

Your team gains experience working with one another in various environments while seeing some of the common ground they share. Samantha Netkin (@samnetkin), former assistant editor at PopSugar, discussed how choosing a cause and volunteering with her coworkers positively affected her:

“Not only did we fit in some serious bonding time, but we also strengthened the relationship between each of our team members. By working toward a common goal that was important to everyone, we got to know each other on a more personal level. That understanding has positively impacted our morale (and productivity!) as a unit.”

Research backs up Netkin’s claim. One study found that 77% of Millennials would prefer to volunteer with coworkers, while another study found that 64% of employees who volunteered together felt their work relationships were strengthened.

Company-Wide Service Days

CECP reports that 54% of companies in their 2016 survey offered a company-wide Day of Service volunteer program. Of those companies, 80% consider it the most successful volunteer program within their CSR strategy. Company-wide service days are a specified amount of time/shifts set aside by the employer and meant to encourage the workforce to volunteer within the community. It’s a rallying event, transcending departments and organizational levels, focusing all employees on a common cause. Popularity stems from the ability to work alongside coworkers (physically or otherwise) while following a program built to make a positive impact on the local, national or global community. That time together is great personal and internal employee relationship development, two things pivotal for developing a healthy company culture.

Additional Reading: How to Increase Employee Participation in Volunteer Programs

WinnCompanies, a housing development company, announced last year that they would provide each of their 3,000 employees 8 hours of time to devote to volunteering opportunities of their own choice in 2017. Called “1,000 Days of Service”, the program allows employees to choose the causes that resonate with them most while staggering the days of service out among the workforce. Company-wide service days don’t have to be focused on volunteering. Using your organization’s experts for a day or week of pro-bono work can benefit the community while tapping into the talents of employees. If your organization or any departments within it cannot feasibly stop operations for one day, there are still ways to provide days of service.

Friendly Giving Competitions

Employee giving can do amazing things for nonprofits and charities, especially within CSR programs that features matching. Adding an element of competition to the program can lead to even bigger outcomes and engagement. In-office or interdepartmental sporting tournaments, trivia, cook-offs or clothing drives can all help encourage donations of time, money or goods.

Not only do competitions like these add a sense of urgency, the gamification of the experience builds camaraderie amongst teams. Whether program runs for a few weeks or only a day, employees are encouraged to help one another, build strategy and take responsibility in hitting goals. Even further, depending on the size of your organization, you can use the unique interests and talents of your team or community to propel the competition’s rules and focus. Startups in the Austin area came together for a fundraising competition called Startup Games: Level Up, where 10 businesses competed in various games to raise money for charity. The different games, board to sport, allows for the individual talents of team members to shine and all for a good cause.

What’s All This Mean for Company Culture?

Strengthening the bonds between employees creates equity in company giving. Employees feel ownership in maintaining CSR programs, just as they feel responsibility in maintaining healthy work relationships. In fact, they both will go hand in hand. Volunteering as a company unit also breaks down departmental and hierarchical walls. As employees work alongside each other, they aren’t looking at job titles or tenure. Everyone from CEO to intern are on the same level, actualizing the same goal, learning from one another at the same rate. Better yet, the organization can use these opportunities to support employee skill development while upholding the company values and mission. All of this is highly important in building a philanthropic company culture.

This article originally featured on the CyberGrants blog by Nita Kirby, Director of Client Relations at CyberGrants.

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