Giving back can be great for the community and your business.
Companies and their people who support a healthy mix of charitable, community and business organizations tend to reap significant rewards. In addition to helping the community, this helps companies foster employee satisfaction, strengthen bonds with potential clients and referral sources, develop brand awareness, and position their brands in a more positive light. The relationships cultivated throughout this process also can create business and social opportunities that last a lifetime.
While many business owners recognize this potential, some struggle with implementing the right programs. They wish they had a crystal ball to know which organizations will bring the greatest personal satisfaction and business growth. Until we find that crystal ball, I can share some practical guidance I have found helpful for business owners navigating these issues.
First, identify and focus on your goals. Where do you see the future of your business and its growth? Then, determine what audiences you must reach to help you get there, and identify the community, charitable or business organizations with which these audiences are most involved.
Based on these considerations, examine your personal interests that align with these organizations. Are you more interested in organizations that mentor children or support technology growth? Focus on organizations that reach your target audiences while engaging you and your employees. This CANNOT be just for business. There must be a genuine interest in getting involved or it will not benefit anyone.
This is particularly true for board involvement. If you join a board but seem disengaged and rarely attend meetings, everyone will recognize that your heart is not in the cause. Conversely, serving actively on a board where you can roll up your sleeves, support the organization’s mission and demonstrate your skills is a powerful way to build relationships and therefore business.
Generally, organizations can be divided into three categories:
▪ Charitable organizations support philanthropic goals and social or public interests, such as the National Parkinson Foundation or World Wildlife Fund.
▪ Community organizations serve specific communities and may address specific interest or needs. Examples include United Way of Miami-Dade, Children’s Bereavement Center and Lotus House.
▪ Business organizations are nonprofit entities supporting commercial goals. They service civic needs and are a good place for networking as it plays a central role in chambers of commerce and other business organizations.
There are many ways to get involved. While writing checks is important, it is not enough for relationship-building. Depending on your company size, you may limit the involvement on company time, or you may offer your employees paid time to volunteer. You may provide a donation-matching program, schedule charitable group activities and encourage employees to find causes they’re passionate about. You can also support involvement after business hours.
The most basic involvement is attending events. This is a good way to meet new people and become more familiar with organizations and their people and confirm whether the organizations will be a good fit.
If you seek to build relationships, you should get involved with the committees or boards. Make sure you are comfortable with the organizations and their operations, and at that point, consider how you can get more involved. Again, follow your passions so it will be easier for you to stay committed long-term.
To build the right relationships, you must have a plan. Set realistic, quantifiable goals and specific steps to achieve them. For example: “I want to build a relationship with John Smith and Jane Doe.” So pay it forward and help them out. John is a fan of the Miami Heat, so invite him to a game. Jane wants to get more business from real-estate developers, so introduce her to some of your contacts.
When the time is right, however, you must ask for the business. Some people never get business because they don’t ask.
As the saying goes, “fish bite when they’re hungry,” so it’s important to keep your bait in the water. Stay top of mind with people after you have met them, such as a company newsletter or an occasional email to touch base, so that they will think of you when a business opportunity arises. Don’t make the mistake of meeting people and never following up.
Without a doubt, you can actively give back and support worthy causes while growing your business. The key is to develop a plan that will best support your goals and objectives in terms of personal satisfaction and business growth.
James Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle-market companies. www.casselsalpeter.com