Strategic Community Investment Programs Help Engage and Motivate Employees
By: Meirav Even-Har, Toronto
The days of champaign cheques - a one-time large sum for a charitable cause - are mostly a thing of the past, at least among medium to large Canadian companies. Whether the corporate head office is located in Canada or abroad, firms have been investing more money, staff time and resources to link community giving with their core business. Aligning community giving with a company's core business makes sense, and helps build long-term partnerships with stakeholders. Strategic community investment programs are also proving to be excellent vehicles in engaging employees.
Recently TD Bank employees and retirees from across Canada and the United States generated record-breaking funds for the "TD United Way Employee Giving Campaign" which began in 2000. A press release from January 18, 2012 stated that "combined with TD's cross-border corporate donations of $5 million, this year's campaign, which ran from November 14 to December 2, generated a total of $17.5 million to support United Way agencies and other registered charities across North America." Now in its 12th year, it may take more than a sustained corporate endeavor to see to the success of this annual campaign - employees must be engaged and value the initiative as well.
STRATEGIZING CORPORATE GIVING
Carol Foran, Senior Manager, Member Engagement, at Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) explains that for companies, value is in employee retention; having a strategic community investment program helps companies maintain and grow employee satisfaction. CBSR is a non-profit, member-led organization that helps mobilize Canadian companies to improve their environmental and social performance. Ms. Foran notes that over the years, the organization has witnessed the growing sophistication of CSR programs, and that there is recognition that community investment must be done strategically and involve employees from the very start.
For most companies, especially those in the professional services industry, the process of hiring, training and provide continuous education to employees, can amount to a fair bit of money. A happy employee typically equals a productive employee, and one that stays for a while.
Firms such as ORENDA are retained to work with businesses on their strategic community investment programs, "to create a meaningful connection between people and the places they work and do business with", as per company website. ORENDA's work with companies such as Softchoice and Corel Corporation (Corel), helped produce focused community investment campaigns that also drew from employees' know how and creative thinking, hence harnessing value from within each company.
SUCCESS IN DOING GOOD
Both Softchoice and Corel assembled cross-functional and geographical "cause" committees to aid in identifying a social purpose that was "focused, relevant, authentic, measurable and engaging". For example, according ORENDA, "Softchoice has built a number of labs in North America and Africa, and has bridged the digital divide for hundreds of children and adults that otherwise would not have access to technology."
Because employees were included in the social cause development process, including a plan to accomplish shared goals, the program is valued as authentic, and has therefore experienced sustained growth.
Carol Foran best summed her observation by linking the initiatives back to a strategic business decision: "At CBSR, we have seen growing recognition amongst our members that engaging their employees in CSR initiatives (both environmental and social) can drive multiple business benefits including employee attraction/retention, product/service innovation, and accelerated cost savings through environmental programs. When employees become ambassadors for a company's CSR initiatives, great things can happen."
 Case studies courtesy of ORENDA
 Case studies courtesy of ORENDA
Photo Credit: CIBC Run for the Cure (Art & photos by Ron Sombilon Gallery)