It’s tempting for young companies to put “getting involved in the community” on the to-do list for the future. They wait until the company is more established, more employees are on board, or a few more clients are locked in.
But carving out precious time to help the community, especially in the early days, can be a defining moment in building your company.
I’m not talking about the grand gesture of a big donation. Who can afford that, especially in your company’s early days? I’m talking about real grassroots involvement that engages your company and your employees in the community.
At Rocksauce Studios, we set out to establish core values that gave us a road map to consistently deliver happiness for our employees, customers, and the world around us.
Embedding community involvement in our company DNA from the get-go has been essential to achieving our happiness goals and instrumental in our success.
Engagement comes from inspiration. It’s important to choose an opportunity that lines up with your products and target audiences or a cause based on your personal interests. After all, there’s nothing worse than involvement for involvement’s sake.
It really starts with defining your communities. For example, my team is part of a vibrant creative community in the Austin area. We got connected with Behance, an organization that hosts portfolio reviews a couple of times a year. As part of our outreach, we volunteer to help organize these events where creative types from throughout the area get together to share their work, get feedback, and swap stories. Not only does this project feed our creative souls, but it also keeps us connected to art schools and young designers who provide a pipeline of future talent for our team.
When it comes to our broader community, we have chosen a different type of event hosting: blood drives. We’ve found that they bring our team together for a good cause and make us feel good about ourselves and our company — all while providing a much-needed resource. Our blood drives have fostered new friendships and strengthened our ties to the community.
When we host a give-back event, our goal is always to build and maintain relationships. From meeting potential employees to making new friends to connecting with potential new clients, the involvement creates tangible dividends for our business.
Giving back also reinforces who we want to be as a company. In 2015, we sat down with each member of our team to talk about what they saw as Rocksauce’s core values. We came away with five: happiness, honesty, empathy, loyalty, and passion. While these things mean different things to different people, by defining them for our company, we’re all working toward the same goals.
Giving back to the community is a key way we’re choosing to deliver happiness — for our community and for ourselves.
Prioritizing and maintaining community initiatives can be challenging when you’re navigating the daily struggles of a startup. Here are three tips for getting your company on the right path:
Building a foundation for giving back through your business is all about your company culture. Take an employee-centric approach by learning what’s meaningful to your team members and connecting with them about ideas and opportunities for community outreach. Encouraging employees to volunteer — and supporting them with company-sponsored volunteer days or flexible hours — emphasizes the value your company puts on getting involved.
There’s someone in your organization who embodies the culture you’re looking to achieve. Make this person your champion in identifying opportunities and leading your company’s engagement. Along with recognizing the champion’s dedication and skills, you’re encouraging other employees to get involved as well. Down the road, you’ll likely find yourself with multiple champions.
Like all good things, community involvement takes continued work over time. You have to constantly promote your give-back philosophy, remind employees about opportunities, and, most importantly, reward involvement.
Ultimately, you’re creating embedded corporate social responsibility, which has been proven to increase the commitment, motivation, and productivity of employees. Research shows that engaged employees are 2.5 times more likely to exceed their performance expectations.
Authentic community involvement doesn’t happen overnight. Finding the right fit for your business goals and your employees’ interests takes focus and exploration. But keep moving forward. Try out different projects, reevaluate your direction, and adjust course as necessary.
The satisfaction you get from giving back is well worth it. And the benefits to your company’s success are icing on the cake.
Michael Manning, chief relationship officer at Rocksauce Studios, joined the team to bring her considerable marketing, analytical, and relationship skills to the team. As chief relationship officer, she leads the charge on invigorating the company's loyalty, happiness, and customer engagement from within.