Holiday Volunteering Supports Your Business and the Community
Supporting a charitable cause is good for the community and for your business. Beyond helping nonprofit groups, studies show that volunteering can encourage employee teamwork, boost morale, and generate positive PR for a company.
Want to give back during the holidays? Here are a few ways to do so, plus some tips for getting the most out of your efforts.
- Participate in a team-based walk, run, or bike race. The Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis is popular this time of year. (Check Active.com for events in your particular area.) Commit to walking the race as a team, or agree to meet at the finish line if employees want to compete at different paces. To subtly let people know what business you represent, have T-shirts printed that read something like "Smith's Lawn Care Has Joined the Battle Against Colon Cancer," and wear them on race day. Get a jump on 2014 events by training with your employee team year-round. It’s a great way to encourage fitness and come together as a group.
- Serve meals to the needy. Helping to serve food at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, especially around the holidays, is a wonderful way to unite your staff while supporting a really good cause. Find a provider in your area via the HomelessShelterDirectory.org’s list of soup kitchens.
- Hold a food drive. Support hungry families by stocking the shelves at your local food bank. Go a step farther than simply asking employees to donate nonperishable items; get the public involved, too. Run a radio or newspaper ad requesting that people drop off boxed and canned goods at your office or store. Announce your food drive on your social media sites and post signs at your place of business requesting donations. Find a food pantry in your area by visiting FoodPantries.org.
- Hold a toy or clothing drive. In the U.S., more than 16 million children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, or $23,550 a year for a family of four. That often isn't enough to cover essentials like food, clothing and heat, so gift-giving is out of the question. Encourage your employees to donate clothes, especially coats and boots, or toys that are new or in near-new condition. Give everything to a local nonprofit, such as the Salvation Army or the Toys for Tots Foundation.
- Visit hospitals or nursing homes. Caroling, distributing candy canes, reading stories, or simply talking with people who are injured, ill, or elderly can make a real difference in their lives. Hospital patients and the residents of extended-care facilities are often alone at this time of year.
- Raise money. Request donations to a specific cause from employees and customers — and offer to match whatever amount they give. Many businesses ask customers to donate $1 with each purchase or put collection tins or boxes next to cash registers. Advertise that you are matching all of the donations you receive to demonstrate your commitment and to encourage people to give generously.
When you’re ready to support a cause, follow these guidelines to make the most out of your volunteering activities.
- Pick the right cause. For small businesses, supporting a local cause helps to build your reputation as a community advocate. However, if you opt to support a national charity, ensure that you choose an ethical one — and that your money is going where you think it’s going. Use CharityNavigator.org and CharityWatch.org to help guide your decision. Work with your team to ultimately decide which cause to support.
- Don’t force people to participate. Some employees won’t want to join in, and you will need to accept that. Say something like, “Although I want everyone to participate, participation is not mandatory. You are expected to report to work as usual while the rest of the group is volunteering.”
- Schedule your volunteer activities appropriately. If you can shut down the business for a few hours while your entire workforce volunteers, great. However, if yours is an operation that requires at least a skeleton crew on hand at all times, establish teams of employees that take turns being out of the office to volunteer.
- Publicize your efforts. Let the public know about your volunteering activities. Announce on social media where you will be volunteering beforehand. Post pictures during your event and afterward. Discuss your volunteer activities on your website, too. Send a press release to the media. (Services like PRNewswire.com make it relatively inexpensive and easy to send press releases.)
Jaimy Ford is a business writer and editor. She writes subscription newsletters, training tools and blogs that focus on professional development, leadership, productivity and more. Her goal in everything she writes is to provide actionable advice that you can put to use immediately.