In a session at TD Ameritrade’s 2016 National LINC conference in Orlando, attendees discussed ways they were positively interacting with their communities and the benefits to their businesses.

The session was led by Jennifer Hammond and Tara Valentino-Maher of TD Ameritrade’s community affairs division.

Firms that want to build a community outreach or social responsibility program should identify what their community needs and what their employees are interested in, and focus on how those two areas intersect with the company’s priorities.

Community involvement is a way to drive engagement with employees, and is good business from a reputation standpoint. “As you think about the bigger picture, you can take your priority as a firm, and take what the community’s needs are and find that great sweet spot that helps you connect with your clients,” Valentino-Maher said.

She asked attendees to share how they were using their “time, talent or treasure” to make an impact in their community.

One attendee described his work with Habitat for Humanity. Another attendee said instead of having a holiday party, his firm decided to have a group shopping trip to buy presents for kids at a local hospital.

Another said his firm focuses on volunteering by offering quarterly opportunities for employees to give a day at local charities, and also makes a corporate donation that employees can contribute to through a payroll deduction that has about 60% employee participation.

“The good will that you [build] in your communities can help drive reputation, your business; it’s really helping your clients understand who you are as a company,” Hammond said.

Valentino-Maher described some of TD Ameritrade’s community outreach efforts, including Habitat for Humanity builds where they invite associates and clients “to have a different type of conversation outside the office.”

She pointed out that not all volunteer opportunities have to take place off site; firms can bring opportunities to the office. At the conference, TD Ameritrade had a booth where attendees could build military care packages for the Red Cross and on Friday hosted a bike build where attendees could help build bikes for kids.

Match programs are another way firms can contribute their “treasure” as opposed to “time” or “talent.”

Hammond shared three ways firms can develop or define their community outreach programs.

First, they need to define their motivation, she said. “What’s driving your decisions?” she asked, whether it’s that the employees are asking for a particular program, there is an identified need in the community, or the firm wants to build stronger relationships with its clients.

Once the firm’s motivations are identified, there needs to be a focused plan for giving time or money. Finally, “How do you share that story” both internally and externally, she said.

“Generosity can become, over time, very transactional,” one attendee said, especially for wealthy clients who are writing checks to various charities. “We wanted to take it from transactional to transformational” by connecting passions with actions.

— Read How Doing Good Can Help Advisors Do Better on ThinkAdvisor.