When you give more, you get more.
We know this because we have the privilege of running a disaster aid charity called United Survivors Disaster Relief (USDR).
We engage with victims of disasters all over America and also serve the community on the streets in our home state.
Additionally, we are involved in a consumer protection watchdog organization that has many contractors as dues-paying members.
In short, we are in a unique position to objectively observe the companies who grasp the philosophy of “when you give more you get more” and the benefits they reap.
A prime example
On Nov. 7, 2021, country music artists Lee Brice, Randy Houser, and Colt Ford will take the stage at the Cajun Dome in Lafayette, Louisiana, in a star-studded benefit concert to aid victims of Hurricane Ida billed as “Ragin’ Country Crawl.”
This fundraiser, the vision of CMR Construction owner Steve Soule, is a high-end example of a business using charitable efforts to not only benefit those in need but also establish relationships and build a reputation for caring.
This effort has connected CMR not only to impacted storm victims but also to elected officials, business leaders, local nonprofits and statewide centers of influence.
According to Soule, that dynamic is the key to successful community engagement through charitable service.
“When done correctly, philanthropy creates long-term relationships between your business, the community, sponsors and donors that becomes a sustainable ecosystem," he said. "The goodwill established by charity drives business profits and increased profits drive a giving program that will flourish over time to everyone’s mutual benefit."
Get the picture? Using your business to benefit the community is about far more than free giveaways.
In a storm market full of signs to “report crooked contractors” and cynical locals calling out-of-state restoration companies storm-chasing carpet baggers, you can bet that companies who give back are viewed much more favorably.
The same concept applies in your home market as well; if you only show the community your entrepreneurial face, they will only see you as a profit-driven business person.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that (we’re all capitalists here, after all), but it doesn’t give consumers that warm fuzzy feeling that makes you the person they MUST call when they’re ready to do business.
If you show people your human side, the part of you that likes to give and to make a positive impact in the world, the community will view you as a trusted advisor in a time of need.
You’ve got to give to get—and you have to give first.
Now if you enjoy giving (and we’re betting you do) this won’t be a problem.
After all, at its very heart, the profession you’ve chosen is about helping others, right?
The catch is that you can’t reach the full potential of helping people professionally until you’ve first gained the trust of the community—and to do that, you need to help in other ways.
This is a secret long understood by many of the business leaders you admire and whose success you’d like to emulate.
Paul and Kim Reed are a power couple on the national stage.
They are involved in a myriad of charitable efforts and have gone one step further by founding the national non-profit “Roofers in Recovery” to help industry people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction (and no, you don't need to be a roofer to join).
Paul, the co-owner of North West Roofing, says that the couple's motto is “You can’t keep what you have unless you’re willing to freely give it back.”
Kim, who is president of NextGen Leads, goes more in-depth.
“As a business owner and leader, giving back not only sets examples within your family, business and community but allows growth throughout," she added. "Philanthropy should be part of your foundation and structure. Giving changes lives and builds a community of fellowship and mentorship.”
But you don’t have to host a huge concert or start a national non-profit to boost your business’ profile in your market.
Anyone can do it.
If you are super busy and just don’t have the time, you can simply make a monetary donation to a worthwhile non-profit.
Don’t underestimate the value of this strategy: Smaller organizations that are in the trenches making a difference are often starved for cash to purchase supplies and resources to fulfill their mission.
They will be very appreciative and are always willing to publicize your generosity.
If it’s a large enough gift, you can even host a donation ceremony with the traditional "big check" and press release.
If your business is smaller or just getting started and you don’t have the funds for a cash donation (or if you prefer more active involvement) there are many budget-conscious strategies to help.
Ideas for Low or No-cost Efforts
You can have a company volunteer day where employees serve meals at a soup kitchen, read to seniors or children, volunteer at an animal shelter.
An easy option is to use what you know and do some repair work at a local charity’s facility.
You can even attract traffic to your location by working with a local animal shelter to host a pet adoption day or have a clothing/supply drive for the homeless or storm victims with your location as the drop-off point.
Cat zones are a different dynamic and there are many options that don’t cost money but generate tremendous goodwill.
Your company can be a hub of helpful information.
Gather intelligence as to who is providing what services, supply drops, volunteers, or serving meals.
You generate tremendous goodwill by connecting victims with resources and you can even have your team carry and distribute pamphlets put out by organizations assisting victims.
As you can see, there are many creative ways to engage and build trust in the community, but it’s important that your motives are pure.
“People trust you more if they know you’re giving back. Yes, people are watching and that will drive profits, but at the end of the day, it’s not all about getting something back," Paul Martindale, CEO of Martindale Pinnacle Construction. "Profits will come, but it shouldn’t be your main objective. Building a rapport with the community and establishing trust by helping people is what pays off in the long run.”
As you can see, industry leaders are taking advantage of this unique growth opportunity.
They are also aware that it comes with a laundry list of unexpected positives for your business, like tax benefits, building teamwork and company spirit, boosting morale, and increasing employee retention.
How many business strategies make you feel more fulfilled by your company’s role in the world around you, facilitate a positive corporate culture and also increase your profits?
How to get started
- Sit down and determine what you’re trying to accomplish—what’s your "why?"
- Develop a community engagement philosophy or vision statement;
- Determine who will coordinate the effort. If you’re already overcommitted and won’t have the time, then pick a volunteer from your team: One or more of your employees may already be involved in similar efforts in their personal life. Give them a title that matches the importance of the task: Community engagement liaison or charitable efforts coordinator etc;
- Pick an effort that matches your values and the unique challenges of the community you wish to serve and connect with. You can even select a few options and have your employees choose one or two. This develops team spirit and gives them buy-in to your vision.
You may want to steer clear of controversial or divisive issues that could alienate part of the population.
Always remember, the goal is to develop an environment of mutual growth for your business and the community, not just send valuable time and resources into a black hole.
“Having been in business for 22 years and doing work all over the country, we’ve learned that sustainability in a giving program is critical," Soule said. "You can’t just blindly donate without the thought of refilling your ‘giving bucket.’ Charitable efforts have to be good for business just as business is good for charitable efforts.”
This brings us to the issue of branding and publicity—yes, we said publicity.
I know at some point in your life someone said, “If you do a good deed you’re not supposed to tell anybody” and everyone in the room nodded their head in agreement.
Now forget about that.
That philosophy doesn’t work in business or in building a sustainable charitable effort.
Here, the goal is to get the word out so you can help the maximum amount of people, so make sure you publicize your efforts.
At USDR, we recommended you adopt a strategy of standing on a mountain top waving a flag and shouting, “This is who we are, this is what we’re about, come join us!”
You’d be surprised how many people WANT to help, but just don’t know how to.
Publicizing your efforts will draw like-minded people to the light you shine.
If you want to be a leader, then you need to get comfortable standing up in front of the crowd and yelling “follow me!”
This isn’t about ego, the goal here is to not only make a positive impact in the world but also to inspire others to do the same.
Tips on branding and publicity
- Always publicize your efforts. As with all things, branding is a critical component in building relationships and trust;
- Connect with local homeowners, elected officials, businesses, and centers of influence for support and sponsorship. This gives you networking opportunities that highlight your business in the most positive light;
- Put your brand on your service initiative i.e.: “Acme Contracting Volunteer Day!”
- Always wear company shirts, hats and jackets with your logo clearly visible;
- Take lots of pictures and put them on your company website and social media;
- Have the organization your helping put the initiative and your company info on their website/social media. Get your name out there;
- Research all other groups addressing the same issue and network with them, have them share your company effort on their social media and websites;
- Reach out to the media for coverage. Newspapers, tv and radio often do human interest stories. (While we were writing this article, a contractor from Connecticut we know was on the evening news for partnering with a manufacturer and Habitat for Humanity to give a free roof to a veteran. This was covered on the evening news in the NYC market with millions of viewers in the tri-state area);
- Get your customers involved. This will connect people who have had a positive experience with your business to the community and increase word-of-mouth advertising.
In closing, you started a business, not just to be successful, but to make an impact in the world by helping others.
Regardless if you’re a huge national player chasing storms, or a local business working in your hometown, charitable giving and service to your community will help you achieve these goals.
Not only will your business be positioned as a trusted friend in the community, your employees feel better about where they work, but you will feel better about yourself.
Nothing boosts self-esteem and personal fulfillment like giving of yourself to effect positive change in the world.