Building Community and Great Workplaces through Service

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When building better workplaces, employers typically focus on making internal improvements that can range from renovating the physical office space housing the organization to developing employees to build the talent pool. However, if the 2013 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report is any indication, employers would do well to look beyond their four walls and reach-out to build their surrounding community.

Among these employers of choice, virtually all winners (99%) sponsor some type of charitable event, fundraiser and/or scholarship and a strong majority of this year’s winners (81%) coordinate an organization-wide community service activity.  Clearly, these great places to work have successfully made a concerted effort to integrate community service into their culture by taking a highly active role in serving their community.

Facilitating Community Involvement

While 2013’s NorthCoast 99 winners elevate these opportunities to give back to an exceptionally high level, the results of the recently published 2013 ERC Sustainability & Social Responsibility Practices Survey suggest that even among a more general sample of local organizations, many are still making efforts to facilitate community involvement both as an organization on the whole and as individual employees.

Approximately two-thirds of organizations surveyed in the Sustainability & Social Responsibility Survey indicate that they offer their employees at least one community service related opportunity. These most commonly involve the employer coordinating community service activities or functions (38%) or the company’s donation of a product (33%). About one-quarter of organizations provide paid time off for employees to participate in community service activities and an equal percentage has leadership involved in community service activities.

In terms of the specific community involvement efforts in which organizations themselves typically participate, the survey results show that monetary, food and product donations are by far the most common.

In contrast, efforts that require one-on-one interaction with those in need or other time commitments to complete the service are far less frequent. Understandably, activities such as blood drives, mentorship programs or pro-bono work do require a time commitment that not all employers or employees may be able to make. One notable exception to this trend is participation in walks/races that raise funds for a charitable cause or organization which came in second only to direct monetary donations at 42%.

Related Policies

Despite these levels of community involvement, many organizations still have not formalized their social responsibility efforts. Very few organizations surveyed (22%) have community service or social responsibility policies and only 5% have a formalized set of rules or guidelines regarding employer requests for matching donations or other employee initiated charitable giving requests. Organizations typically evaluate employee requests for charitable giving and matching activities on a case-by-case basis or pick one or a few charities available for employees to donate and then the company matches this amount.