Does charity start at the office? Sometimes. Let me explain.
There are many schools of thought on whether or not charity belongs in the workplace, or if it should be kept solely at home. Some businesses simply can't justify giving to charity when they're fighting just to break even. Others actively support various missions.
What's the right way to approach it?
The answer is that both approaches are right. It really depends on what's the right fit for your company, what you believe in and, frankly, what you can afford. However, one of the things I'm continually surprised by is how much charitable giving can help your business. Really.
When it comes to charitable giving, we're usually thinking, justifiably, about whether or not we think a cause is good and how it will help people. At the same time, it can be a sort of rallying point for customers and employees.
After all, what better way to spend time with and get to know your customers than at a charitable gala or 5K walk? In many ways, it's better than taking those same customers to a sporting event because you'll have time to get some insight as to what they're all about, and get insight about how you run your business.
As someone involved in JDRF efforts in Illinois to work toward a cure for type 1 diabetes, I get exposed to the capabilities and skills of advertising and marketing agencies who help work on the Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes in October and on the Chance of a Lifetime Gala in December. And, who knows, these may be people I end up wanting to hire or work with in another capacity. I get a sense for who they are and how they work.
Charitable drives are also often a rallying cultural force within a company. They unite people in a way you don't always see in the workplace. My experience is that there's great value in letting your employees focus their efforts on something outside their everyday tasks. Especially in a small business, where everyone is wearing so many hats and working so hard, charitable drives offer an opportunity to learn more about your employees, and for them to learn more about you.
All businesses are driven to an extent by the bottom line, but work is more than just a paycheck to many people. It can be a big part of who they are. Many people spend as much or more time with coworkers than friends and family. A charitable commitment at your office gives your employees an opportunity to be part of something larger, something that feels good.
If this sounds sappy or sentimental, consider that it shows a human side to you and your business, allows you to make new connections, and gives you and your employees a new way to grow.
MICHAEL ALTER is president of SurePayroll, America’s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University. @michaelalter