Giving back to the community: charity in the workplace

Posted February 19, 2013, by Molly Wiltshire-Bridle

Who said charity starts at home? Every year, charities and not-for-profit organisations rely heavily on the generosity, devotion and hard work of Australian businesses and their employees. In 2012, salary donations alone contributed nearly $40 million to a raft of worthwhile causes.

Whether you’re a small business or multinational corporation, the advantages of introducing a charitable venture in the workplace are numerous. If you do your research, rally team support and believe in your cause, you might just find that the benefits flow both ways.

We take a look at just a handful of the reasons why giving back to the community makes sense. 

It boosts employee morale

Whether it’s donning a pair of brightly coloured socks, declaring war in a bake-off or slogging it out in a fun run, charity events are a positive and enjoyable means of fostering employee cohesiveness and boosting morale.

Offering staff the opportunity to unite under a common cause promotes team-building, engagement and a shared sense of purpose. It gives Sue from marketing the chance to meet Tom from tech support, and reveals Gary’s hidden talent for cultivating a mo. It generates excitement around key events, and rewards with a collective sense of achievement over the final result. More importantly, it shows employees, no matter their department, that they are capable of banding together to make a difference.

Daniel Lewis, State Partnerships Manager at the Starlight Children’s Foundation says that peer-to-peer advocacy plays an integral role in any campaign.

‘By engaging a team in a cause, you are accessing many people – if you can give each of them a positive experience then they become advocates for your cause also’.

What’s more, establishing a sense of pride in one’s workplace will bolster employee satisfaction, in turn improving long-term retention rates. Research has even suggested that a gently competitive, achievement-oriented scheme – like a fundraising target or award system – can go a long way towards boosting work ethic and overall productivity.

In short, there’s nothing quite like an eccentric tie, a bright red nose or a tray of homemade cookies for raising spirits (and dollars!).

It demonstrates corporate social responsibility

For those stern-faced executives who remain unconvinced, the benefits may even extend to the boardroom. A workplace-giving program offers employers a vehicle to build community partnerships, establish brand recognition and display a sense of corporate social responsibility.

Getting involved with local charity groups affords you the opportunity to strengthen community ties and get to know your customer base. This represents a strategic business move in more ways than one. First and foremost, you identify yourself as philanthropic and community aware, which in turn engenders consumer trust. Demonstrating that you are interested in more than just revenue raising can serve to humanise an otherwise faceless corporation, and reminds customers and employees that you share their values and concerns.

Platforms such as event sponsorship will help get your name out there, allowing you to print your logo on fun run t-shirts, billboards, posters or in the local paper. Strengthening brand recognition in the market place is a key tool for success, particularly when you are able to align your business ethos with that of a worthwhile cause.

Importantly, the emphasis is not just on how much you can give, but the authenticity and reach of your efforts. Small businesses need not feel outmuscled by the buying power of transnational corporate giants – your contribution is equally valued.

‘Work with the charity on how to get the best outcome for both parties’, recommends Lewis.

How to get involved

The sheer volume of charity and awareness organisations can at times feel overwhelming. With so many bodies vying for your attention, it’s important to do your research. Seek out a cause that you and your colleagues feel passionate about, or that aligns well with your company’s core values and mission statement. The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission is a good place to start.

‘Talk to your staff; look for engaging, tangible opportunities to get people involved. Plan a calendar of activities that suits your business and does not become “all too hard”’, says Lewis.

Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and approach your HR department with a suggested avenue of involvement, or brainstorm a plan of attack with your peers. Many charity organisations also offer training packages and advice on how to best implement a corporate support strategy, like the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s Meaningful Business program, so there’s no need to go it alone.

The important thing to remember is to work within your means. Whether you prefer a regular salary sacrifice via a workplace giving program or to motivate your entire office across the finish line in a charity fun run, no contribution is too small.

For even more ways to give back to the community and exercise your compassion, check out our range of online social work, community services and environmental courses.

Molly Wiltshire-Bridle

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