In a perfect world, employee volunteer and giving programs are inspired by the very top of the corporate food chain. Â A CEO imprints his social values into the earliest DNA of the company and sets a tone for giving back that electrifies employees. Â People want to work at this company partly or entirely because of its values-based mission. Â Even if the companyâ€™s business is just manufacturing widgets, the company has carved out a meaning for its existence that is more profound than its bottom line. Â And itâ€™s this larger purpose which helps employees feel that their jobs are not only cool, but important.
But this isnâ€™t a perfect world.
Quite often, corporate philanthropy directions are set by administrators, some of whom have many other things on their plate besides running the companyâ€™s social responsibility initiatives. Â But even when the companyâ€™s civic endeavors are these administratorsâ€™ sole focus, and they have all the time in the world to manage their companyâ€™s employee volunteering and giving program, itâ€™s an uphill climb to maximize the potential of these programs when leadership isnâ€™t paying attention.
After all, how can employees be expected to get excited about giving back when the CEO doesnâ€™t appear to care? Â And if the C-suite isnâ€™t deeply involved in their organizationâ€™sÂ community impact, itâ€™s tough to make much of an impact at all, both within and outside of the company.
So whatâ€™s a CSR (or HR or PR or marketing) executive to do? Â If you want to get your companyâ€™s top dogs more engaged around your corporate volunteer and giving program, hereâ€™s a checklist of five helpful steps:
1. Â Attend volunteering events. Â And donâ€™t just get leadership to attend, but make sure they roll up their shirtsleeves and pitch in. Â Thereâ€™s nothing like working side by side with the CEO, sorting through donation boxes at a homeless shelter, or raking leaves at a nature conservancy, or reading to underserved kids, and so on, to make employees feel more connected to their company. Â Conversely, the absence of top management at volunteering events can make employees feel like the hired help executing a social mission thatâ€™s purely cosmetic. Â If you want to generate real social impact and deepen your corporate culture, it all starts with leadership showing up, and not just for a photo op, either.
2. Â Send some emails. Â Genuine ones, from the heart, about any aspect of your volunteering and giving agenda. Â Get your CEO writing about how excited they are to attend the upcoming day of volunteering (see step #1), or how much fun they had at the recent event, what the cause means to them, congratulating the team on their giving campaign, discussing some creative new fundraising ideas, forwarding a blog about the companyâ€™s civic activities, writing that blog to begin with. Â Whatever the communication, just communicate. Â The troops need to continually hear from their chief (and other chieftans) about the companyâ€™s social mission in order for it to remain relevant and inspiring.
3. Â Put your money where your mouth is. Â If you want employees to make donations, lead by example. Â Get approval for corporate matching – it does wonders to galvanize participation. Beyond that, get the CEO to make a personal donation, then make sure everyone knows about it. Â And if youâ€™re really lucky, you can get your CEO to make personal matches for all donations, even at a small percentage, just to show how invested she is in the cause. Â Asking a CEO to personally commit to a few thousand dollars in matching dollars shouldnâ€™t be a tall request of a highly paid leader of a successful organization, especially when itâ€™s all a write-off, and especially when the fundraising and cultural dividends will far exceed that dollar amount.
4. Â Â Â Board up. Â If your leadership team isnâ€™t sitting on any charitable boards, itâ€™s time to get them serving. Â Philanthropic board positions offer a powerful opportunity to become deeply informed about a cause, shape an organization, make an impact, network with other like-minded individuals, discover new avenues for corporate involvement and assume leadership within a cause community. Â And charitable boards donâ€™t just help your company with charity – theyâ€™re superb connectors into the business community as well, so thereâ€™s no excuse to not get involved. Â Help your CEO match up to a board that parallels your companyâ€™s social focus and then leverage that board position for greater company involvement in the cause.
5. Celebrate successes. Â Sure, itâ€™s a program administrator’s job to manage the brief and debrief of your companyâ€™s volunteering and giving events, ensuring that your team knows what to expect beforehand and then assessing later how it all went. Â But it sure makes a difference if leadership is involved with these group huddles, helping to fire up the team on the eve of a campaign and then being a part of the thoughtful analysis afterwards. Â And if the group has reason to feel particularly good about its efforts, itâ€™s nice if the CEO is there to recognize the hard work and – better yet – lay out exactly what kind of real world impact this outreach had for the given charity or cause.