Turn your business into one that supports and engages the community

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Seeing businesses doing awesome things for their communities is AWESOME, and we should totally convince everyone to do it. So I always wonder why aren’t they giving back? Some just might not want to, some might feel they don’t have the resources, and some might be intimidated on how to start and need some help to get it going.

There is a lot of material out there on how to build successful CSR programs, but a lot of it can be daunting. If you have limited resources you might not feel like a long-term partnership with a charity might be possible due to financial or people power resources, but there are many ways besides that where you are given the opportunity to do good. In my last post I talked about ways companies are giving back. If you don’t have the financial resources, there are still opportunities for your business to engage.

Supporting the community as a business owner is hard work, so let’s figure out how to make it simple. Here are some basic things to consider when deciding what efforts to support and how:

  1. Start with “why” (if you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s book, do it) doesn’t just refer to your business being successful, it is a mindset that translates well to any situation. Keep why you are doing what you are doing at the forefront of everything. So when choosing a cause or charity to support, start with your why. Why is your company in existence and how does that relate? why do you want to give back? why are you passionate about certain causes? The best causes to support are ones that you, as an owner or manager, are personally connected to, or one that really resonates with the mission of your company. The closer it is to you, the easier it is to support.
  2. Determine resources that your company can give (time, money, in-kind donations, etc.). If you try to give before you know your limits, you can end up in bad shape. Figure out what you can give, and what value your business can add to the community. You have great assets, so determine what those are and how you can be of best use to the nonprofit.
  3. Assessing need is key to having the greatest impact. If you are choosing an organization to donate to, look into their financials and their strategic plan. Make sure what you can/are willing to offer is a good fit. You also want to be sure that you are attaching your name to a cause/organization that you are proud of and will happily stand by. Determine whether your plan is to stay local or expand. My vote is always for local!
  4. Managing partnerships is not as simple as writing a check or sponsoring a charitable event. There is more to it than that. Once you have determined what you can give and who you plan to give it to, creating a partnership with them is key to really contributing to the community. If you are a small business with limited resources, it might be the owner or a staff member who volunteers their time to build these relationships. Often times in large corporations, they will have a whole department or staff person dedicated just to CSR. Creating solid relationships will help both you and them in the long run. Don’t just give your money and run, work to understand their mission and how you can support it.
  5. Follow-through on what you commit to, for their sake and yours. Whether you know it or not, nonprofits you reach out to are depending on you. From the minute you commit to a donation, they have already factored that into their costs and allocated it to where it will be best put to use. A business never wants to get a bad rap because they promised things and didn’t deliver, especially when it is to a charitable cause that speaks to people. Word travels fast.

Turning your business into one that supports and engages the community can be simple, but should still be well-thought out and strategically done. If you are small (but mighty) and need some help, look to those large corporations that might have it down. If you are a big business, sometimes it’s good to look to the smaller fish and get back to your “why”, and support local efforts.

Check out CSRwire for news and report updates on CSR, and theguardian for other news on environmental CSR.

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Start with Why. For business and your career.

I recently found out about this organization called School for Change. They aim to inspire others to invest in themselves to be the best changemakers they can be by offering classes and workshops on social change. I registered for their free course that offers learning guides of resources and activities as a starting point to create change. Similar to that of Echoing Green’s Work on Purpose, and Net Impact, School for Change believes in the power of finding meaningful work that positively affects the world. I encourage you to check them out, specifically their learning guide “Careers that Matter”. Just sign-up with your email and get them sent directly to you.

Their approach to finding meaningful work was simple: Line up your approach, Reflect, Define, and Launch. Easy as that. The bottom line, just like discussed in previous posts, is that you need to know where you are trying to go. You might not know every step along the way, but only you can figure out where you want to take your career. That way, when the going gets tough, you still know why you are doing what you are doing. The first activity they suggest you do to prep is very straightforward, start with a goal you have for work, and write down why you have that goal. Ask yourself as many times as you need to in order to uncover the roots behind the why. Working to solve some of the worlds toughest problems is not easy, so not only does focusing on the “why” make your job easier, it keeps you motivated along the way.

This activity they built in their learning guide reminded me of Simon Sinek’s, “Start with Why”. If you have never read his book, you are crazy, and you should. If you need some coercing, watch his Ted Talk first. Sinek does a great job explaining how leaders in businesses and organizations inspire action among others by focusing on the why, but this lesson can be applied in so many other ways. Starting with why can help you make big decisions in your life, can keep you motivated, and, can even help you become a great presenter (tune in for next week’s post).

The “Golden Circle”, as he calls it, allows you to narrow down the three levels in which we all function; WHAT we do, HOW we do it, and WHY we do it. Everyone knows what they do. If someone asks you what you do for a living, you know the answer to that question. Then comes the “how”. Some people, not everyone, know how they do what they do. The how, he says, are the “things that make you special or set apart from others”. If you are being asked about your career, the how is the way you do things. Next to someone who has the same career as you, what is different? You don’t both do things the exact same way. Start-With-Why-About

Lastly, he discusses the “why”. This is where you lose people. This is the purpose, cause or belief behind what we do. What inspires you? What drives you? What sparked you to do this in the first place? This is a perfect fit for career planning. Working towards social change is not easy, so why are you doing it?

Take the time to read the Learning Guide from School for Change, it is a informative and simple way to get to the “launch” part of your career.

Check out Net Impacts Self Assessment: Passions Mosaic to help clarify the impact you want to make.