In his most recent installment for Forbes magazine, Underground Elephant CEO, Jason Kulpa explains how to maximize your company’s local impact and appeal to your employees’ interests in the community. The full article is below, and on Forbes website here.
As a leader, your company is your first responsibility. And it’s a multifaceted one at that. You have staff to manage, clients to court, products to launch, finances to maintain, and competitors to watch — and that’s just Monday.
To say that you’re busy is an understatement. And this lack of time is likely why you, and many other leaders, opt not to get involved in your community. But getting involved with local organizations could be one of the most important responsibilities of all. Like any business, your company has a mission to drive profit. But does it have a culture to give it heart? Together, these attributes can make a truly great company.
Although your industry, stage of growth, and employee interests will naturally influence where and how your company gets involved, the most mutually beneficial commitments often fall into one of four categories:
1. Economic Development
Start by establishing relationships with economic development and regional trade organizations. Your participation within these institutions not only contributes to the future economic growth of your community, but it also provides an opportunity for your company to gain exposure and attract potential clients.
Besides the obvious advantage of networking with legacy stakeholders, it’s one of the rare opportunities to keep tabs on upcoming local- or state-level policies that may affect your business. Staying up to date on new policies can help your company be proactive — rather than reactive — in the market.
2. Community Services
Expand into building relationships with government agencies or organizations (police departments, schools, etc.) that offer local community services. Often, these agencies are in dire need of resources, and rallying behind their cause makes a measurable impact.
While making a positive difference should be the ultimate goal, your support also stands to benefit your company — especially in terms of employee morale and company culture. Obviously, good PR never hurts a business, but employees will also feel like they’re making a substantial contribution to the community. This can help create a more cohesive team and inspired culture.
3. Local Causes
Look into establishing relationships with nonprofit organizations that align with your mission. Choosing which organizations to support can get overwhelming, but using your mission to guide this decision will help you narrow your choices. It also makes the partnership between you and the organization logical in the eyes of the public.
But don’t just support an organization because it’s a natural fit. You should trust that it can deliver on its promises. Meet with its leadership to gauge whether your investment (in time, energy, and resources) is a wise one.
4. Community Events
Consider sponsoring local activities, such as sporting events, free days at museums, community orchestras and theater companies. Attaching your company to a local event or activity has another obvious draw: It’s a place to entertain clients and reward employees. Because many of these organizations are active in multiple areas of the community, you can also learn about new initiatives that might coincide with your company’s mission. Provided you have the resources, getting involved with more than one organization is the most effective way to support your community. It also helps diversify the organizations you support and appeal to your employees’ varying interests.
Our company is dedicated to helping those who serve our community at large. This has led to ongoing partnerships with the San Diego Humane Society, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Building for the Brave, a project with Habitat for Humanity to provide affordable home-ownership options for disabled veterans and their families. With respect to economic development, we’re active members of the Downtown San Diego Partnership and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. As for community events, we have Padres season tickets and are avid supporters of San Diego State University’s basketball team.
By differentiating our commitment to the community, we’re able to maximize our local impact. We’ve also been able to engage more people within the company, boosting participation in our philanthropic endeavors and increasing opportunities for team-building activities.
Although committing time and energy can serve an organization beyond financial support, writing a check isn’t without merit. You are less likely to overextend your good intentions, and it’s more feasible for you to provide sponsorship rather than in-kind contributions.
Despite the direction your company takes to get involved in the community, start with small, targeted collaborations that make sense for your business. Then, use these partnerships to build trust and scale. Pretty soon, your company will make a noticeable difference in the community, and the community will return the favor by investing in the success of your business.
Jason Kulpa is the CEO of Underground Elephant (UE), a performance-based provider of online marketing solutions. With proprietary, cloud-based SaaS marketing tech & platforms, UE serves multiple industries: auto/health insurance, post-secondary education, & home services.