For some people, “community service” equals punishment. But as a business owner, those two words should translate into “business opportunities.” By doing good, your business can do well in a number of ways.
Volunteering in your community is a win-win for everyone involved. The employees develop a stronger sense of camaraderie and often get to showcase skills that aren’t normally visible in the workplace. In my experience, sometimes it turns the tables on management, and you get to witness a CFO try to find the business end of a hammer (priceless). Employees get to know each other without the workplace stress and normal hierarchy experienced on a daily basis. It helps build self-confidence and self-esteem, and delivers a great sense of accomplishment, pride and identity.
Regardless of the volunteer activity, there are a number of ways you can entice your employees to participate. You can offer door prizes (paid time off is hugely popular) or free meals, or you can encourage them to bring their families (or all of the above).
I’m involved with several service organizations and have participated in and organized quite a few volunteer events: roadside cleanup; food and drink sales for fundraising; neighborhood cleanup and repairs; and my favorite, Habitat for Humanity. I’ve been lucky enough to be included on six different home builds and it’s a rewarding experience – not only for the new homeowner, but also for the team of volunteers who participate.
Roadside cleanup is a close second favorite of mine. Through programs such as Adopt A Highway, individuals, groups and companies can volunteer to pick up litter and beautify a stretch of highway. When you’re done, your organization’s name is posted on a clean stretch of highway – putting your business’s name in front of hundreds (or even thousands) of motorists who drive by every day and associate your brand with clean roads and highways. Not only is it a powerful marketing message that can bring in new customers, but it also can serve as recruiting tool because it shows that your business cares about more than just making a buck.
Getting It Right
Matt’s Automotive Service in Fargo, North Dakota, was highlighted in the July/August 2019 issue of ShopOwner. Matt Lachowitzer, the owner and founder of Matt’s Automotive Service, spends Black Friday repairing people’s vehicles for free. Lachowitzer partners with a local radio station to find candidates, and Lachowitzer and his crew do the repairs. Some of his employees even have chipped in to help fund the repairs.
Curious about how you can use technology to make a difference? There’s an app for that. In fact, there are a bunch of apps that enable you and your employees to serve the community in a variety of capacities. Many of these apps will help connect you with local events and local needs. Some apps – such as “Be My Eyes” – are virtually worldwide. “Be My Eyes connects people who are blind or have low vision with a global community of volunteers and community representatives who are ready at a moment’s notice to lend their eyesight for everyday tasks,” the app explains.
Through Be My Eyes, people who are visually impaired can request help for a variety of tasks, such as reading product labels, matching outfits or cooking. When a call goes out, the call is received by thousands of volunteers across the globe. Whoever answers gets to help “Be My Eyes” for this person. The very first call I got was from a guy who was trying to cook breakfast and just wanted to see the expiration date on his bacon. That was right up my alley!
In addition to the intrinsic benefits of volunteering – goodwill, positive vibes and team camaraderie – you can leverage community service as a powerful marketing tool. By taking pictures at the volunteer event and posting them to your social media pages or even your website, you can showcase your greatest asset – your people – and highlight your connection to the community. You might even send some pictures and a brief writeup to a local newspaper or a trade magazine for some free ink.
The ideas mentioned here only scratch the surface of what you and your business can do. You’re only limited by your creativity and willingness to give. Make a difference in the lives of others with a significant, long-lasting contribution to the community. You can do well by doing good!