Community service is supposed to be a fun opportunity for employees to step out of the day-to-day routine of their jobs, so don’t make it feel like work, says David Kempton, Ohio’s area president for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
“When companies make it too difficult or painful to participate, employees get frustrated,” Kempton says. “You’ll have companies that don’t approve time off for these initiatives, or don’t help to communicate about these types of programs internally. You need to promote opportunities to give back and enable your employees to take part or you lose a lot of the community that you’re trying to build.”
Bringing people together
Gallagher is a global insurance, risk management and consulting firm that has more than 27,000 employees. The goal for Kempton and his team in Northeast Ohio is to create a close-knit group of people who are as driven to support their neighbors in need as they are to do great work for clients.
“If all you’re doing is coming in and working, you’ve got co-workers,” Kempton says. “If you’re coming in and you have these outside interests and activities to take part in, you become friends. You become family members.”
Gallagher locally has developed the Gallagher Better Communities program to create ways to help and support nonprofits that may not have the resources to engage with would-be volunteers.
“Maybe they don’t have the capacity internally to create a day of caring or an entire companywide event like that,” says Leslie Berzansky, Ohio director of marketing for Gallagher Benefit Services. “It benefits clients because now they have an opportunity to allow their employees to participate in a volunteer program. It also helps nonprofits because they’re getting volunteer work, and again, not having to do much to source their own volunteers. We’re helping to bring them together.”
Companies looking to make their own difference in the community should consider surveying employees to see what causes are close to their hearts.
“It goes back to the theme of not being top-down but rather being all inclusive,” Kempton says. “See what people want to do and see where the energy level is. If your team is going one direction and you’re going a different direction, that’s obviously not going to work. Create alignment, and that that will drive the energy for the organization.”
Get out of your office
Employee engagement is one key to creating energy for philanthropic work. Executive participation can be another, Kempton says.
“When we talk about giving back, I get very animated and very excited about it,” he says. “You need to get behind it, but it has to be genuine.”