7 smart ways to embrace charitable endeavors this holiday season

Perhaps your local independent insurance agency prides itself on giving back to the community where you live and work. Or perhaps it’s on your to-do list.

Many agencies do admirable jobs of being involved and contributing to the well-being of their communities. They sponsor youth athletic teams. They contribute to local charities. They host food or clothing drives. They volunteer to support local causes.

All of these things not only provide a sense of satisfaction that you are truly giving back and helping the community that keeps you in business, but as a nice side effect, it intrinsically builds goodwill among citizens/clients and potential clients in your community who think positively about your agency because they see you are making these efforts. It’s a win-win.

As the holiday season is upon us, many people’s thoughts turn to volunteering and contributing to charities that are near and dear to their heart. It makes you feel good about yourself—especially at this time of the year—while reinforcing the solid values you want associated with your agency by employees and consumers alike.

While volunteers to serve meals on holidays or do other good deeds are often lined up months in advance, there are plenty of ways you can still become more involved in your community this holiday season.

The Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, hospice organizations, veteran’s organizations, homeless assistance programs, hospitals and nursing homes are all potential candidates that could use your help, either in the form of volunteering of collecting needed items.

Before you embark on a new cause, here are a few tips that may help your company go about it in the most effective manner:

  1. Take great care in selecting a cause: Chances are, there is some cause that might particularly resonate with your office due to personal experience. This no doubt will pique interest, as people want to help the causes important to them but also causes important to their friends or co-workers. While the owner of an agency may have a cause of particular interest in mind when deciding to launch a volunteer or charitable effort, that owner may want to think about allowing employees to suggest worthy causes to support. Employees may feel more of a sense of personal buy-in to the project if they truly believe in what they are doing instead of merely going along with what the boss wants. If the owner is firmly committed to a particular cause, the owner should make a strong case for the value of the effort so employees will understand the motivation behind it. Also be sure to vet the charitable organization you will be assisting to ensure the donations you collect or the work you do really benefits the people it is intended to benefit.

  2. Don’t force or coerce employees to participate: This defeats the purpose. If an employee has no interest in the cause, or if the cause conflicts with their own personal beliefs (think: religious, activist or political causes), they should feel safe in declining to participate without fear of job-related repercussions. Also understand that some employees may already be heavily involved in charitable causes outside of work, and may not be able to take on an additional load.

  3. Go through proper channels: If you are not the boss, presenting an idea for a charitable or volunteer effort to the boss is a great way to show initiative and display a sense of selflessness. Just make sure you go through proper channels in your company to obtain permission prior to talking about a charity or volunteer effort involving the company and/or its employees. Also, make sure you go through the proper channels within the charity or cause your effort is intended to help.

  4. Give a junior employee a chance to shine: Launching a volunteer effort provides a great opportunity to allow younger or less-experienced employees to demonstrate leadership and initiative by taking charge of the effort. Taking a lead role in something like this can increase their sense of job satisfaction and prepare them to take on additional responsibilities in the office. These events can also be a prime opportunity to do some team-building and shake up office dynamics.

  5. Offer a variety of ways to help: If possible, see if you can find a cause that allows people to contribute monetarily, contribute their time and/or expertise, or donate material goods such as food or clothing. This increases participation, and in ways that are comfortable for each person.

  6. Consider teaming up: If you have developed referral programs with accountants, lawyers, real estate agents or other professionals, consider asking them to team up with you on the effort. While demonstrating that you care about your community, it also provides a great opportunity to deepen your relationship with the referral source and make sure you remain top-of-mind when referral opportunities pop up.

  7. Toot your own horn softly: You can publicize your efforts (this is perfect for social media posts), but remember to do it in a subtle manner. It shouldn’t be about getting credit, but quite honestly most people will never know you’re doing anything unless you have something about it on your website, LinkedIn profile or Facebook page. Take some pictures of your volunteers in action and post them online. If you are really going the extra mile, sending a press release to your community newspaper isn’t out of line, as your employees might appreciate a little recognition for their good deed.
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