Three Ways Helping Hurricane Survivors Can Help Your Business

First published on Forbes, Sept. 26, 2017.

Since August, two gigantic forces have dominated the news: Harvey and Irma. Every time we turn on our television, radio, or scroll through our favorite social media site, there they are. For those of us not directly impacted by the hurricanes, going to the office seems to bring a sense of normalcy, yet we still have an underlying feeling that we should do more.

For most, donations and humanitarian aid seem like things that employees should handle outside of work. Well, I’m here to tell you that that volunteerism and donations should be part of your work and can actually help improve it. While it is easy to dismiss these as “non-essential” to growing a business, you miss a large opportunity by not combining your business with your humanitarian efforts.

Giving back to those in need is not only good for your soul, it is good for your employees, your brand, and impacts how customers view your company.

Team Building

There is a reason that employers plan field trips, team-building exercises, and projects beyond your day-to-day work.  When your team is focused on a greater goal and can reach that goal together, they engage their creativity, social awareness, and innovative skills. Team-building exercises such as feeding the homeless or organizing a school supply drive get your employees out of their day-to-day behaviors, help them get to know each other, and demonstrate that the company is invested in the community.

Projects that focus on working together, collaboration, and communication simultaneously generate great team bonding and build skills that support business growth.  

Employment Brand Building

The way your employees see you as a brand is critical to your success. Your employment brand determines whether people decide to join, stay with, or leave your organization. When your employees love your company, it generates word-of-mouth buzz resulting in greater retention and productivity with current employees and reduces your recruiting expenses because the top talent has already heard about you from their friends. The greater and more engaged the talent, the better your bottom line.

When you provide community service-based activities, your employees build bonds with one another, feel happy that they’ve helped someone else, and take pride in their company. That pride engages and retains them as employees and gets them talking about how awesome their company is to friends and family.  

Not only will these activities strengthen their relationship with each other, but you’d be surprised by how loyal employees become when their company pays them for a day of service to the community. People will go above and beyond for your company because you went above and beyond for the community.  

Customer Pride

Creating great philanthropic activities for your employees not only works for attracting top talent, but it builds an impressive narrative for your customers. A study conducted by Cone Communications and Echo Research showed that “more than 90 percent of consumers would switch to a brand supporting a good cause.” An additionally powerful statistic regards millennials–a powerful and much sought-after demographic pursued by the greatest marketing dollars: “More than 85% correlate their purchasing power to the responsible efforts a company is making.”

Most businesses already donate money in some way, whether their customers know this or not, but by engaging in a project that involves your community, you connect your employees with the community in a way everyone can see. You create a story that resonates and that both your employees and customers can rally behind. Your employees feel pride in what they are doing and your community sees tangible effects of their work. An experience, unlike a check, is something you can share in together. The extra bonus? Pictures and videos of the day can be re-purposed for amazing and uplifting collateral you can share over direct mail marketing, through social media, or for internal campaigns.

How to get your business involved

I reached out to a friend and fellow Thunderbird MBA Jennifer Galek, whose recent “just go and do stuff” reaction to Hurricane Harvey moved the marketing executive to muck homes, hold children, and find clothes for complete strangers. She details her experiences in a moving piece called Helping Houston Heal — One Small Something at a Time.”

Galek’s first experience with “get out there and do something” happened right after Hurricane Katrina. Frustrated by the Red Cross’ four-day mandatory training, she saw a need and answered it, organizing every aspect of a successful clothing drive. Days after, Oklahoma found itself devastated by tornadoes. She found ways to collect supplies, create care kits for both adults and kids, and get them to the people who needed them most.

Her advice is to “be the first to do something different. Think outside the box and own a need. Be the answer to the question.”

Also a successful marketer, Galek points out the intrinsic value to businesses: “When customers see you volunteering, they will be more loyal to you. If you can get them to go out and volunteer with you, that creates a bond that lasts forever!”

Here are ways to connect your business with philanthropic service:

  • Plan a volunteer trip for your employees to visit areas in immediate need to help put their society back together. While time is of the essence, planning a trip to help a few months from now will still be useful. Cities that have been through a hurricane or tornado need helps rebuilding for years.
  • Organize a hands-on activity such as a diaper drive or a day creating care kits such as the ones Galek put together.
  • Partner with a non-profit organization to create an ongoing way for employees to volunteer. For example, Habitat for Humanity offers companies days that foster an environment of engagement for employees and pride in community.
  • Create a business resource group around volunteering or humanitarian efforts.
  • Establish a matching donation opportunity.

Make giving to others a part of your budget, both in terms of paid days to volunteer together as a team as well as matching donations.  You’ll see this investment in your community pay off in increased customer recognition, easier recruiting, and better employee retention.

More on increasing employee engagement and productivity.

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