This past weekend as I watched CBS Sunday Morning, I was inspired by a story about former Wall Streeter Kerri Martin and the nonprofit she created in Ashbury Park, New Jersey. Second Life Bikes gives local kids the chance to learn skills while repairing used bicycles. And they find joy in giving back to the community in the process.
In the past four years, about 400 kids have earned a free used bike by volunteering at least 15 hours in the shop. Eleven year old America Rice is featured prominently in the story because she continues to volunteer even after earning her bike. America keeps coming back to learn new things, hone her skills and be a part of something bigger than herself. I think business executives can learn a thing or two from this child’s heart and wisdom.
In Madison, Wisconsin, where I work, many companies have discovered that giving back to the community not only helps those less fortunate, it’s actually good for business. Here, savvy consumers want to spend their hard earned dollars with companies who are viewed as strong community partners. And employees want to work for those companies. The challenge isn’t getting the business community involved, it’s making decisions about which of the 3,000 area nonprofits to assist via cash and volunteers.
The possible avenues for corporate community involvement are endless. Nonprofits are always looking for sponsors for events such as fundraising galas and 5K races. If your company wants to do some team building while community building, consider volunteer opportunities at a local food pantry, collect and distribute toys in December, or help build a home for Habitat for Humanity.
The United Way of Dane County makes it easy for companies to volunteer employee time each August during the annual Days of Caring. United Way staff work with nonprofits to coordinate numerous volunteer activities such as pulling weeds at an elderly woman’s home or washing windows at a nonprofit center serving families. Some tasks are designed for a single volunteer and others accommodate small groups.
Perhaps your company is large enough to create its own unique volunteer opportunities. Innovative companies in the Madison area have found ways to give back that take advantage of in-house expertise and manufactured products.
Over the last eight years Knupp & Watson & Wallman, a full service advertising and digital agency, has donated $2 million — in posters, TV and radio spots, strategic marketing plans and other goods and services — to over 80 nonprofits around Madison. This annual 24-hour marketing marathon is known as Goodstock.
TDS Telecom, which offers managedIP Hosted, its business VoIP solution, just held its annual golf outing and raised more than $38,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. Throughout the year TDS and its employees hold several events to benefit nonprofit and charitable organizations such as JDRF, American Red Cross and DreamBikes.
American Girl capitalizes on the popularity of their dolls and accessories to raise funds for the Madison Children’s Museum. Each summer, they sell overstocks and returns in a popular one day sale. Little girls and their moms, aunts, and grandmas line up early for the opportunity to snatch a bargain and help a worthy cause at the same time.
American Family Insurance Company, headquartered in Madison, provides land for an employee community garden which donated 388 pounds of fresh produce to food pantries last year. The successful idea has inspired the regional office in St Joseph, Missouri to plan a garden in 2014.
J.H. Findorff & Son Inc created an employee engagement campaign centered around the theme of 120 years in business. The “120 Challenge” resulted in over 2,042 volunteer hours to more than 125 nonprofit organizations throughout Wisconsin.
There are many more examples I could share, but I think you get the idea. Corporate community involvement opportunities are unlimited, even in your locale. If you are a business executive, please spend a few moments thinking about how your company can give back and then do it. If you are an employee, volunteer to design a community engagement plan for your company and oversee implementation. No matter your role, the reward will come from being part of something bigger than yourself.