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August 1, 2016 Know How

Making community service part of your company culture

While corporate community service is often perceived as an easy way to get involved with local organizations, when rooted in a company's DNA, the results can go well beyond that surface-level impact. In fact, a strong community service program can have a positive effect on employees and customers as well as the nonprofits receiving contributions.

Employees and customers are a company's two most vital assets – each taking months to secure. A true commitment to community service supports them both by helping to generate loyalty and a sense of purpose that cannot always be achieved in the office.

We've made service an important focus at AAFCPAs through our 10% Back program. We donate 10 percent of our annual net income to nonprofits, delivering in the form of financial contributions, pro bono work or hours devoted to a cause or an event.

This kind of engagement in the community helps employees feel connected and enthusiastic. Their efforts have the added benefit of helping to reduce turnover, boost morale and keep brand awareness high. Simply put, it makes work feel like a part of home, and it instills a sense of pride that cannot be easily shaken. It has helped create a family environment – even with 200 people.

1. Community should be a core value.

One of the reasons AAFCPAs has been successful with its community programs is the commitment to service has been part of the company since its founding. The leaders of the firm always made a strong case for participating on boards and volunteering in the community.

Once embedded in the culture, that spirit was held dear at every level. When management and staff work side by side on behalf of a shared cause, they share a genuine bond. With time and consistency, the practice becomes a regularly celebrated core value.

2. Choose your causes carefully.

When choosing which community service initiatives to participate in, remember that not all employees will be moved by every cause, and in some cases they can even be polarizing. Take care in selecting which nonprofits you work with; consider whether the organization is stable, what its strengths are and the impact it makes. You'll want to articulate to your company why a particular nonprofit was selected to receive your valuable time and resources.

3. Act local.

While staying in the neighborhood makes sense, remember that local does not mean the same thing today that it did a decade ago. Technology creates connections across vast distances, so you can define your community as you see fit. Geography is not as important as being invested in a cause together.

4. Remind employees why they matter

One of the amazing benefits of community service is that it reminds everyone they can have a true impact on others. Younger employees have solidified a reputation for being socially conscious, and often prefer being connected with a company that is proactive. While they might naturally gravitate towards helping others, they still benefit from understanding what their good deeds mean to those around them. Whether young or seasoned, all employees may need training and education around the importance of philanthropy. It is what makes this country great!

Nonprofits readily accept that they won't go far without providing a sense of connection around their mission and the surrounding community. For-profits of all sizes routinely deprioritize these elements – but in the battle for better margin, CEOs who better understand how the success of their company connects with a strong community may enjoy a better relationship with employees, customers and the advocates around them.

Carla McCall is the co-managing partner at Westborough accounting firm AAFCPAs.

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