How to create a culture of community service that lasts all year

Jillian Rodriguez
Jillian Rodriguez | 7 min. read

Published on December 13, 2018

Especially this time of year, we all love to give back. Community involvement strengthens the communities we serve and boosts engagement within our own companies. Plus, small businesses have the opportunity to contribute something unique to their community—after all, who knows your own backyard better than you?

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But in the fast-paced world of property management, it’s easy for community service to fall through the cracks. And that means losing out on powerful opportunities to build relationships and get your company involved in the community. Community service sounds great on paper, but how do make it a meaningful part of your company culture?

It’s actually simpler than you might think to get started on community service. It’s all about making service simple, meaningful, and visible. Once you do, you’ll find you have happy, highly-engaged employees and a vital role in shaping the community around you.

Know What You Stand For

What does your business stand for? Your company’s core values help define your culture and guide the daily behaviors of everyone on your team. Some companies have formalized their values, some just intuitively know what’s most important to the business.

Either way, community service is an opportunity to connect employees to your company’s values, bringing your beliefs to life through service and action. For example, Buildium’s core values are: Focus on customers first; be helpful and supportive; communicate openly and honestly; be nimble and flexible; take initiative and work hard; and be passionate and have fun. They serve as guideposts for everything we do, including community involvement.

Look to your company’s unique set of values to understand what kind of service will be most meaningful to your employees. Really think about the personality of your brand and how that will translate. If technology is a core part of your business (it’s critical to ours!), seek out ways to build STEM education in your community.

“Charitable giving is at the core of what makes a Buildian, a Buildian,” says Megan Beiber, Buildium’s Employee Brand Manager. “The opportunity to give back and participate in the communities that we serve, isn’t just table stakes—it’s written in the values that our employees live and breathe every day.”

When service is meaningful, your employees will love doing it and it just fits. The Buildium team recently volunteered to participate in project-based STEM learning with Boston sixth graders, teaching them about every stage of the app development process. The idea is to find compelling service opportunities that not only build the community, but build your team’s sense of purpose.

Create Community Days

If you’re looking to make community service a year-round endeavor, consider dedicating a set number of days to community service every year. That way, your employees can look at the company calendar and plan ahead for the events they’re most interested in. For example, Buildium participates in annual service events that the team can look forward to, like raising funds every summer in the Bike MS Ride for MS treatments and awareness.

Your employees are busy, and leaving volunteer work up to the individual often leads to low community engagement. Instead, handle the leg work for your employees and invite them to participate in meaningful work that gets them out into the community. You can get creative about how you make community service part of the culture—here are two ideas to get you started:

Paid time off for volunteering. Paid Volunteer Days encourage employees to seek out community service opportunities that are meaningful to them. Show your employees you care by empowering them to give back to causes they care about during the work day.

Community service manager. Planning community initiatives can be time consuming—if you don’t have a team member dedicated to the role, consider inviting a highly-motivated employee to head up community service for the team. Look for someone who’s already passionate about giving back to the community. If there’s an employee who’s always in charity races or attending local fundraisers, give them the tools they need to get the whole team onboard.

Share Success Stories

Community service doesn’t end when the last employee crosses the finish line. There’s power in the stories that emerge from your team’s community service. After every community event, take the time to collect and share the positive impact and experiences of your employees. Recognizing and rewarding your team for their hard work is a great way to boost engagement and increase participation for future service events. Soon enough, service will be embedded into the fabric of your culture.

“Buildium is a mission-driven business focused on helping small and medium businesses grow. For Buildians, this work is personal,” says Megan. “It isn’t enough just to do the work—how we achieve this mission matters. Whether it’s mentoring the next generation of tech leaders in our annual Guppy Tank program, or participating in the annual Bike MS ride, our shared culture of charitable giving guides our employees all year long.”

Sharing success stories is a simple, impactful way to shine a spotlight on community service. Make community service an agenda item at every team meeting, share photos and stories on your company intranet, and recognize employees on your social media channels. Not only does this show the team how much you appreciate them, it also helps you reach customers, residents, and community members in a whole new way.

Make It a Company Priority

If you really want to see your community involvement grow, set a goal and stick to it. Measure and track your progress just like you would with other important business metrics, like revenue and retention. How much money do you want to raise? How many employees will volunteer their time? What impact do you want to have on your community? Once you’ve set your goals, share them with the team and track your progress throughout the year. Pro tip: throw an office party for the team when you reach your goals—they’ve earned it. Even if you don’t throw a full-blown bash, providing food and snacks for those who volunteer can go a long way in fostering engagement.

Having trouble convincing your colleagues that community service should be a top priority? Remember that giving back isn’t just good for your neighbor, it’s good for the culture. A study from Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy found that organizations that are “doing good” for their communities benefited from significantly more engaged employees. The study also found that hands-on service led to even higher engagement scores. Community service isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s essential for sculpting a purpose-driven business.

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Jillian Rodriguez

Jillian Rodriguez is a freelance writer out of Detroit, Michigan. Jillian writes about everything from entrepreneurship to real estate to chocolate, and she loves every minute of it. Beyond writing, Jillian is an avid reader, a public radio junkie, and active in early childhood development. She earned her B.A. in Creative Writing & Sociology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

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