Sometimes the easiest way to boost employee morale is to show genuine interest in the causes they care about. When your company embraces a specific charity or movement, it shows the “human” side of your business, it supports a worthwhile cause, and it helps employees feel good about the company they’re working for – all great things.
Of course, reaching out to — and successfully working with — programs in the community will take some effort and organization. Here are some tips that can guide you and your company.
How to structure community outreach programs:
You could approach this in a few ways. Here are some ideas:
- Each year, choose a new charity/cause to support and make it THE focus for the year.
- Change it up quarterly/seasonally – for example, you might sponsor a little league team in the spring and a breast cancer walk in October.
- Make it more casual. Let employees know that a fund exists for community outreach. Assign someone to handle requests (such as your HR person) and decide what causes you’re going to support on a case-by-case basis.
Some community outreach program ideas:
- Sponsor a team. It could be a youth sports team in the local community or an adult softball team that’s raising money for a specific cause.
- Sponsor a walk. There are walks for every cause imaginable from breast cancer awareness to Alzheimer’s awareness.
- Organize a “volunteer day.” This would be a day where you and all of your employees or organization members volunteer at a specific event or charity. Another option: offer employees one paid day a year to volunteer at their favorite charity. Get the biggest bang for your buck and promote your organization while you’re at it by having employees wear a custom printed T-shirt with your company’s logo (and, of course, a logo or verbiage supporting the charity).
- Create an event. For example, for the months of November and December, you might accept online and in-store donations, and for each sale you make, you donate a percentage to a favorite charity. Or perhaps you hold a yearly dinner honoring the good works your employees do in their lives outside of work and you have a silent auction that raises money for a specific charity.
You get the idea. There’s no right or wrong answer here – the key is for you and your employees to be passionate about whatever it is you’re supporting.
Promote the goodwill:
- Help create awareness for the program you’re supporting – this will, of course, help your business, but it will also create exposure for the charity/event/cause in question, which is a good thing. Many smaller organizations rely on others to help get the word out about the work they’re doing.
- Create a section on your website. “Community Outreach” is a perfect section to include under “About.” Customers and prospects like to see businesses that do good things. Highlight what you’re doing this year, but be sure to archive information about past programs as well.
- Alert the press. This is especially important if you’re hosting or organizing your own event. However, you could also send a press release out on behalf of an individual. For example, if one of your employees is using her vacation time to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, send a press release on her behalf to the weekly or daily paper in her town. Smaller newspapers are often looking for ideas for features on people living within the community.
- Tell your customers. Use all the ways you’re connected to customers — email newsletters, social media, etc. — and let them know about the charity or event your company is supporting.
- Think visual reminders. The best way to represent the work you’re doing when you’re “in the trenches” (e.g. taking part in a walk or volunteering somewhere for a day) is by having promotional products handy. Promote your business AND the charity in question. Here are some ideas.
- Custom t-shirt printing. These are perfect items to offer organizations you’re sponsoring, such as sports teams. You provide the shirts, and you get promotional exposure through the inclusion of your logo.
- Water bottles. Offer these to employees and encourage them to take the promotional water bottles with them to whatever events they attend. Or make the water bottles available at events you hold.
- Event-specific promotional products. A great example is breast cancer merchandise, such as custom shirts or pink ribbon hats.
What do you think? Has your organization tried embracing community outreach programs as an employee morale booster? Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments.