5 Ways Even Small Companies Can Give Back

It’s National Volunteer Week this week, and that has me thinking about volunteerism in the workplace. It’s a funny thing: People talk about it a lot, but it’s rare that you see it in action — especially from the top down, and especially in smaller companies. In this week’s post, I’d like to encourage more small and mid-size businesses and their leaders to actively promote volunteerism and other forms of giving in their companies. I’ll be sharing some information that’s based on best practices and advice from other organizations that have established successful giving programs, as well as from what we’ve learned through our own activities at Umbel, the company that I run.

If you think your company is too small to make a big difference, my experience says that’s just not the case. Sure, large organizations like Microsoft or Dell may get much of the attention in the press, but smaller companies and their leaders have important roles to play, too. For example, even though our company is a growing startup, our team has found it extremely gratifying to be involved in our community and to bond with each other over something that’s meaningful to all of us.

Here are some things you can do at your company to start your own successful giving program.

Take a cue from Salesforce.com’s “1-1-1” model for integrated giving.
Giving isn’t just about money. The Salesforce.com Foundation, for example, is based on an integrated style of philanthropy that combines people, technology and resources. The company not only provides grants to good causes, it also donates technology to nonprofits and helps employees give back to their communities. One thing I like about this model is that you can think about where you have the most to offer, and emphasize that aspect of your giving. At Umbel, a combination of volunteering and financial support has worked well for us.

Let your employees know it’s actually okay to take time to volunteer.
One of the most rewarding giving programs we have at Umbel is the Meals on Wheelsroute that we sponsor. Each week, Umbel team members volunteer their time and energy to staff the program, delivering hot meals to the elderly, disabled and homebound. We make this a priority, putting it on the calendar just like any other scheduled activity. Employee volunteering is a great gateway into corporate giving for small companies and newly established companies, because it doesn’t require a direct financial commitment; rather, it relies on donations of time and effort. It’s also a great way to establish giving and caring as corporate values, and to give employees opportunities to feel like they’re making a difference in their communities. Volunteer programs are relatively easy and straightforward to set up, too.

Contribute to the organizations your employees care about most.
Employee matching programs benefit nonprofit organizations by increasing the impact of your employees’ financial gifts. At Umbel, we match donations up to $500 each year per employee through the ZenPayroll Giving program, which also provides the convenience of deducting donations directly from employees’ paychecks. Conducting our matching program through ZenPayroll also simplifies the process for us by shifting much of the administrative burden to a third party. Double the Donation is another company that provides a matching gift service to companies, and they’ve created a handy set of guidelines for starting matching gift programs that you may find helpful. Also, if the organization is hosting an event, tell your employees to provide a proposal for potential sponsorship so your company can consider being a sponsor of the fundraising event.

Make giving back a part of your employee’s everyday life.
Every year, Umbel employees look forward to the Umbel Fit Mileage Challenge in which they participate in fitness activities throughout the year, using Fitbit trackers provided by Umbel to log miles toward fitness goals. When someone reaches 750 miles, Umbel makes a $250 donation to the charitable organization of their choice in recognition of the achievement. Over time, we’ve donated to organizations and events including The Archibald ProjectBridges to ProsperityGreenpeace, the Hill Country Ride for AIDSMarathon HighTexas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and more.

Set an example for your employees with your own giving.
If you want your employees to be passionate about giving back, you have to walk the talk by showing your own passion, enthusiasm and commitment to supporting organizations that do good works. Whether you are the CEO of your organization, an internal development executive, HR leader or talent recruiter, you have an important role to play in leading the way. You can volunteer, give financial support or simply offer your company’s services to nonprofit organizations at a special rate. For example, Umbel was recently able to help YMCA of Austin use their data to strengthen their membership efforts. Be the change you want to see in your company, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve for your community. Turn to The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy for helpful information and research on what the CEPC calls “the CEO force for good.”

I’m fortunate to live and work in a city where opportunities for giving abound. From the I Live Here I Give Here organization that promotes local giving, to our local branch of the national United Way organization, the Austin area offers a wealth of resources for companies that want to give. Look in your own community to see what’s available to people and organizations that are eager to give back. Reach out to them and start your company on the rewarding journey of making a difference in your world.

For the original post, please visit Forbes.com