Fostering a giving culture

Support the growth of your community by giving back to those in need

A giving culture within your business is special. When my brother, Brian, and I started The Champion Companies in 2010, we became passionate about supporting the growth of our community through giving back to those in need. To have a real impact, we recognized the importance of using our platform to mobilize our business partners, our apartment residents and our team members. Giving back to the community is truly ingrained in our culture, and by following some basic principles, you, too, can foster a giving culture within your organization.

It starts with hiring.

We don’t hire based on years of experience. We hire based on the demonstration of six core principles that guide our business: community, service, value, passion, integrity and teamwork. During interviews, we ask about a candidate’s volunteer experience and hobbies and look for someone who coaches a child’s team, or who volunteers at church and school, demonstrating a willingness to invest their time into helping others. Those fundamentals translate into high engagement in our volunteer activities.

Be authentic.

Make sure that your giving culture comes from a genuine place by focusing on causes that are important to you. For example, both Brian and I have young children, so we are passionate about uplifting other parents who are experiencing homelessness, or who are struggling with food insecurity. Partnering with organizations like the YWCA Family Center, Children’s Hunger Alliance and Reeb Avenue Center allows us to do that. If you don’t base your giving program off of your personal passions, it will be hard to make it a priority, and people will see right through you.

Make it a priority.

Your giving plan has to be a focus in your organization, especially if it’s important to you to engage as many team members as possible. Spend as much time discussing your giving plan as you do an operations plan. Take every opportunity to communicate the good works your company is doing at major company meetings and through internal communications to keep your giving plan top of mind.

Make it easy.

Make it as easy as possible for your team to give back. We often make it as simple as adding your name to a sign-up sheet and showing up. Additionally, we make every effort to allow team members to volunteer during work hours so our team isn’t forced to decide between a volunteer opportunity and evening responsibilities at home.

Be inclusive.

In order to achieve a high level of team member engagement, the decisions that you make around giving need to be reflective of your entire team’s interests. For example, we partnered with Habitat for Humanity when we discovered volunteer engagement was not as high among our maintenance division. The feedback we received was that our guys didn’t feel as comfortable preparing and serving meals and thought their skills could be better utilized. Because we were willing to listen to feedback and seek out volunteer opportunities that were more in line with their skill sets, maintenance team participation skyrocketed.

Michelle Yeager-Thornton, co-founder & chief operating officer of The Champion Companies, leads operational efforts and oversees the company’s portfolio of communities, which includes nearly 4,000 apartment homes with assets totaling more than $700 million.