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Why You Should Build a Culture of Giving Back

Making charitable donations isn't simply a feel-good thing. If you do it right, those donations can drive change in your community and within your organization.

Giving to your favorite charity feels good, there's no denying that. But your charitable initiatives can have a greater impact on your company than you may think. Gone are the days when donations are all about the tax break. Today entrepreneurs and executives are developing values-driven programs to help their philanthropic efforts grow even deeper roots.

Susan Cooney, founder and CEO of Givelocity has a record of building value and community across many genre-defining companies. Her mentor, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, taught Cooney that finding common threads among people who are irrelevant to your business or product is at the core of building a meaningful and successful culture. She also knows that activities related to giving back engage employees and offer them a meaningful opportunity to bond, share their personal values, and act in unison toward a common goal.

"Combining efforts in charitable activities brings people together to share their voice and work jointly for a greater impact in driving change," says Cooney. "Organized efforts at work give employees a sense of equality where titles and salaries are out the door."

The Benefits of Giving Money and Labor

Givelocity is a recently launched online platform where members build causes, contribute money, and vote on where it goes. The company is built on the belief that when organizations build a culture of giving and combine efforts with other individuals and businesses, they stand a better chance of driving real change--the kind of changes that can help solve major local and global issues. The team-building aspects of a tool like Givelocity let employees work toward a common goal and collaborate, strategize, and celebrate their successes together. What is learned in this collaborative environment certainly translates to a stronger, happier, and more efficient workplace.

But, while charitable donations may have an immeasurable impact on our communities, actions speak volumes as well. Giving employees time off to contribute their labor to local causes can also result in meaningful team building and bonding time.

At Chicago-based marketing firm Kelmscott Communications for example, philanthropic efforts include volunteer time as well as cash donations--and the internal benefits are many. "Since we're going fast and furious to fulfill customer demands all day, internal production stress builds up," says president and CEO, Scott Voris. "As with most companies, there are times when the account executives and production teams are at odds during these stressful periods. Working side-by-side in a volunteer position helps to build respect, communication, team work, and sensitivity to everyone's role in the organization." When your employees work together on a project that is not all about the deadline, they will develop greater compatibility and are more likely to meet those future deadlines without incident.

How to Make Time for It

So this all sounds pretty good, but you may be thinking, it takes time that you simply don't have. Not true! Get creative in how your approach your philanthropic responsibilities. You don't have to make all of the decisions alone. Bring your employees on board from the very beginning.

At Zinepak, a New York-based company that partners with celebrities and brands to create custom fan merchandise, co-founders Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe have created a new employee role to facilitate their culture-building experience.

"We know that cultivating a positive company culture and giving back to our community go hand in hand," says Kaupe. "This year we have instituted a monthly rotating position at ZinePak called the Culture Captain. From Wine Wednesdays to group lunches, the Culture Captain's responsibility is to make sure the spirit of ZinePak remains high throughout the month."

Next month, one of Zinepak's group activities will include giving back to the New York City community via Winter Wishes, a program that allows each employee to fulfill a Christmas list wish for a child or elderly citizen. From receiving the lists and shopping together for gifts to penning hand-written notes of hope and well wishes for 2014, the team has plenty planned to incorporate giving back into its culture. "We feel that participating in the act of giving as a team, not only during the holidays but year round, will help to reinforce our unity and lift team moral," says Hodak.  ZinePak also gives all employees two paid days off throughout the year to volunteer for a charity or local cause of their choice.

So whether you choose a platform like Givelocity for your interactive charitable campaigns or opt for sending your team into the community in person, the benefits are many. How will you engage your team in charitable activities during this holiday season and throughout 2014? We'd like to know! Inspire other leaders by adding your ideas and experiences in the comments section below.

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IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Dec 2, 2013

MARLA TABAKA

Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.




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