As business owners, it's no secret that profits and revenue play a significant role in our long-term decision-making. However, at Atlas Butler, we have adopted a consistent approach to our community impact decisions. This stems from the realization that our philanthropic endeavors within the community directly impact our business's success. Furthermore, we hold a strong belief that small businesses all over the country have the potential to attain comparable results by embracing similar practices.
A Dedicated Giving Program is Good Business
Like anything in life, you can't give with the expectation of receiving something in return. Still, with a dedicated and thorough community-giving strategy, you can help attract new customers while retaining old ones simply by showing that you share similar ideals.
This is a practice that we've lived by at Atlas Butler for over 100 years since our founding and one that has continued to grow as we've expanded, but the principles and components have remained the same. Following the tips below has helped our company grow its philanthropic impact in Central Ohio as well as our customer base; I hope following some of the steps we have taken, might yield the same results for you.
1. Volunteer Company Time – Increase Your Presence in the Community
Donating your company's time or volunteering for a project can go a long way and is a great starting point for philanthropy. Although philanthropic news often focuses on capital donations, it's essential to recognize that volunteer hours and projects at a company level can also create a substantial and enduring impact on the community. By combining financial contributions with active involvement, companies can maximize their positive influence and bring meaningful change to the communities they serve.
Volunteer projects come in various forms, ranging from significant endeavors like sponsoring and constructing a community park to smaller initiatives like organizing a canned food drive in collaboration with a local store to support a food shelter. Our experience with volunteer projects has taught us the importance of seeking input from the entire company to enhance participation and engagement in these endeavors.
During my earlier years, I devoted 10-20 hours per week to volunteering in the community, participating in fundraising, serving on boards, and coaching youth sports. The potential for volunteer opportunities is limitless, but ensuring that these projects align with your company's mission and values is crucial.
2. Develop a Company Philanthropic Strategy
Develop a philanthropic strategy that aligns with your company values and goals to ensure buy-in and continued investment company-wide. Developing your company's philanthropic strategy is crucial to guaranteeing that your hard-earned resources, both financial contributions and time, are directed where you desire and make a genuine and meaningful difference in your community.
The easiest way to do this is by crowdsourcing what type of organization causes pique your employees’ interest. This step fosters engagement and active involvement and ensures their commitment to the company's community-giving efforts. Once you've gathered the information on preferred causes and organizations, you can cross-reference them with those that align with your company's mission statement and address community needs. Effectively communicating the final decision and strategy to the entire company and providing its rationale is vital to ensuring everyone is on the same page.
While developing your philanthropic strategy early is essential, it's also important to remember that it isn't written in stone. Your giving strategy can and should be regularly reviewed and updated as needed.
3. Conduct Internal Surveys on the Giving Strategy
Surveying your employees semi-annually is a good way to gauge the current giving strategy and if it still aligns. During my time at Atlas Butler and multiple times under my leadership, we've altered or revised our community-giving strategy to better align with our community's needs. Conducting semi-annual surveys among employees to collect their feedback and assess their ongoing interest in the causes and organizations we support is the most effective approach. Armed with this valuable information, we can make necessary adjustments and decisions. However, one fundamental aspect of this process is consistently communicating these decisions with our team, as clear and open communication is vital to the success of any company-wide strategy.
4. Align with Like-Minded Organizations
Don't be afraid to say no if the organization or cause doesn't align with your determined strategy. I understand that saying no to a nonprofit organization or fundraiser requesting money can be challenging. We faced the same difficulty until we established a well-defined philanthropic strategy. However, it is crucial to prioritize funds and volunteer time for causes and organizations that align with the collective agreement between you and your company. This approach ensures that your employees take your community giving strategy and program seriously.
Even if you decide not to provide direct support or donations to a particular organization, you can still assist them by connecting them with other businesses or individuals you know who share similar causes and are willing to offer support. By fostering connections and networking, you can create a more interconnected and supportive philanthropic community.
Since becoming more selective over our philanthropic giving, we've noticed several significant impacts that have helped validate our strategy. The most valuable lesson we've learned is that our impact on our chosen philanthropic causes has experienced remarkable growth in both financial contributions and volunteer hours. Notably, our employees have shown a heightened interest in participating in our community giving program!
5. Employees’ Causes Matter – They Are Your Backbone
Don't forget about your employees and their loved ones – they are the company's backbone. Involving your employees has been highlighted in every tip above because the team effort is truly the foundation of a thriving community-giving strategy and program. Your employees are your company's bedrock, and ensuring they're taken care of beyond their salaries and benefits is vital. At Atlas Butler, we encourage our employees to submit proposals for contributions to charities or causes they're passionate about. In doing so, you can support organizations that have direct ties and personal meaning to your employees that can enhance their sense of belonging in your company.
For example, we support the Cancer Support Community of Central Ohio and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society due to the personal experiences of our employees and their families with these organizations and the diseases they support. Anytime you can go above and beyond supporting your employees and their families while contributing to a worthy cause, it should always be considered a win-win!
Throughout the years of witnessing the profound influence of small businesses on their communities and being raised with the value of active community involvement as a lifelong commitment, the Junior Chamber of Commerce's motto, "Service to Humanity is the best work of life," holds truer than ever. It is a sentiment that resonates deeply and that most people can wholeheartedly appreciate and embrace.
As a collective organization, you have the power to make lasting impacts in your community and by doing so enhance your presence there. As successful business owners, we are responsible for leaving a positive legacy and using our resources to improve the places we serve. As you embark on or continue to adopt your company's community-giving strategy, remember to support causes that align with your company's mission, values, and beliefs. This ensures you make a meaningful difference in organizations and causes that matter to your employees. Moreover, such alignment connects you with potential clients with similar values and fosters lasting relationships.
After graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in finance, Mark Swepston began working for Atlas Butler, where he has spent the past 45 years. He currently serves as the CEO. His son Michael, the fourth-generation owner of Atlas Butler, now handles the day-to-day operations as President.