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    Build Community Service Into Your Business
    The Vault

    Build Community Service Into Your Business

    October 2016

    October 22nd is Make A Difference Day, one of the largest annual single days of service nationwide.  On this Saturday, volunteers from across the country will unite to improve the lives of others.  It’s a tradition that’s been around since 1992.

    National Make a Difference Day puts the spotlight on volunteerism and the significant impact community service can have on our lives. As it turns out, serving others actually improves our health, as the personal peace that comes from giving is gratifying and calming, even if the work performed was difficult.  But serving others benefits our businesses, too.   Companies that encourage community involvement distinguish themselves from their competitors, thereby building a loyal customer base.  A May 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research reveals that 82% of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility (CSR) when deciding which products or services to buy and where to shop.  CSR also makes for happier employees and job seekers.  Millennials in particular are very concerned about working for companies with a social responsibility platform.  It’s imperative, therefore, that you build community service into your business plan.  

    How do you build a CSR plan and make it successful?  Here are four things to consider.

    1. Keep it local.

    Look at your community to see what's important. Are the schools struggling? Does the animal shelter need donations? Does a local athletic field need improvements?  You needn’t look further than your backyard to find a worthy charity.  By keeping your focus local, you have the opportunity to build relationships with community leaders and make genuine connections with customers.

    1. Make it a company affair.

    A good community service program is more than just lip service and the occasional donation.  It’s actual work, and it’s important you get all employees on board.

    Offer employees the opportunity to volunteer during work hours or participate in get-togethers after work.  It’s more fulfilling than just meeting for happy hour, and it provides leadership opportunities for all employees -- particularly young ones who might otherwise not get it.  Just think: serve the community, build morale, and inspire collaboration between team members. Score!

    1. Do what comes naturally.

    Take a good look at your business and employee strengths and select volunteer activities that draw upon those strengths. For example, if you own a restaurant, consider bringing dinner to your local fire station to show appreciation for your local fire fighters. You’re already good at making and serving food, and serving your community in this way may open the door to future catering opportunities, an incremental way to increase revenue.  Likewise, if you own an automotive service company, perhaps provide free oil changes for teachers one day.  You’ll need to consider the day’s operation demands (maybe bringing in additional employees to help or limiting the event to the first 30 teachers), but doing what you normally do simplifies the task of giving back to your community and opens the door to more business.

    1. Brag a little.

    Once you've implemented your volunteer strategy, let current and prospective clients know what you're doing by including this information on your website and other marketing materials. It’s important for your customers to understand just what you’re doing to give back and how much your donated time and services would normally cost.  Putting a dollar amount beside your accomplishments provides an easy visual for your customers to understand your efforts.

    Corporate social responsibility is the right thing to do on many levels.  Take time this Saturday, Make A Difference Day, to implement or improve your community service plan.  It’s an important part of your business plan, after all.

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