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Op/ed: Grow a thriving business by giving back


By Cynder Sinclair on August 30, 2013

Ironically, the secret to success in the for-profit world seems to be tied directly to involvement in the nonprofit sector.

Thousands of nonprofits provide vital services to residents in the Tri-Counties, and people realize these organizations make our community richer for everyone. Research shows that consumers prefer to do business with companies that sincerely and enthusiastically support local charitable causes. We celebrate nonprofits in the Tri-Counties and we reward businesses that do the same.

Of course, as a business owner, you want to be successful — you strive to make your company flourish. You also want to do all you can to contribute to building a rich community environment that benefits everyone. Let’s look at two ways your company can do both — otherwise known as “doing well by doing good.”

Promote employee volunteering

The benefits of employees performing community service can be a great way to enhance your business profile, establish important professional relationships, and gain new customers while at the same time strengthening your community. Encouraging your employees to volunteer for good causes will also increase retention, performance, and morale. Companies large and small are discovering the benefits of maintaining a strong, clearly-defined program for volunteer engagement.

Be intentional. Don’t just let volunteering “happen” in your company. Include volunteer benchmark measures in your business plan, your company strategies, and your employee performance reviews. Find ways to reward employees who give their time and talent to our community on your company’s behalf. Some businesses give employees a number of hours each month to volunteer for the nonprofit of their choice.

Others hold special events to honor their volunteers. Ask your employees how they would like to be recognized.

In addition to encouraging your employees to volunteer for their favorite nonprofits, your company can send a team to some of the many organized fundraisers, like the Heart Walk, or participate in United Way’s Day of Caring. Both are coming up in September.

A restaurant might want to encourage employees to volunteer for the local Foodbank. Kohl’s in Santa Maria chose to combat childhood obesity by getting involved with efforts at Marian Regional Medical Center.
You can choose nonprofits based on how the organization’s mission resonates with your company’s values, or you can choose a variety of organizations that reflect the individual interests of your employees.

Volunteering has always been a good way to meet people with like-minded interests — it should be no surprise that it’s also a good way to connect with potential customers and promote your business. Always remember to take a few business cards with you on your volunteer event.

Strategic planning

More and more businesses are discovering the power of philanthropy to improve financial performance, reduce operating costs, enhance brand image and reputation, increase sales and customer loyalty, increase productivity and quality and increase ability to attract and retain employees.

Here’s how it works: Customers have said they prefer to do business with companies that give back to the community. Combining financial charitable contributions with volunteering lends a powerful boost to your company’s image and your community’s welfare.

And don’t forget to promote yourself. In order for consumers to know your business gives back to our community, you have to tell them. Use strategic marketing. Don’t feel self-conscious about “tooting your own horn.” You feel good about giving back to your community or you wouldn’t do it — so shout it from the rooftops.

Be sure to let your employees know about your philanthropy, too. They will feel proud to work for a company that cares, and you in turn will better retain your firm’s top employees. Most people know that strong employee retention results in reduced operating costs. But did you know that motivated employees are more productive? Research shows there is a direct positive link between job satisfaction and firm value.

Shareholders will be happy too. Angel Martinez, president and CEO of Goleta-based Ugg boot giant Deckers Outdoor Corp., recently explained to a group of business people that he prioritizes concerns of customers and employees above those of shareholders. His rationale is that if customers and employees are happy, sales will be up, costs will be down, and shareholders will be rewarded with improved stock returns.

You should also consider joining the Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable, or CPR. The group fosters discussion and best practices among companies. CPR invites businesses of all sizes to learn, share and discover why corporate giving matters to business and to the community.

Make your plan today to grow a thriving business. Strategically decide which nonprofits your company will support, create an employee volunteer program and market your good work to the community.

• Cynder Sinclair is the founder of Santa Barbara-based nonprofit consulting firm Nonprofit Kinect. Previously, she was the CEO of Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics for five years. Contact her at cynder@nonprofitkinect.org.