22 Nov How to Get Your C-Suite on the Giving Bus
You’ve got to get your leadership team on the giving bus because it’s precisely how you drive healthy, sustainable growth.
And you can all get your seats on this bus by being strategic givers.
I want to show you how your C-Suite can start giving back strategically and in doing so, motivate your employees and grow your business.
Start Here: Get The C-Suite to Buy Into The Giving Bus
When you think about who is in the C-Suite, we’re talking about your leadership team. The executives of your organization who are accountable for the growth, health, and risk mitigation of an organization.
They do this strategically with whatever roles they play and whatever tasks they’re accountable for. But what most entrepreneurs don’t understand is that they can also grow their business by getting their C-suite on the giving bus. How is this possible?
It’s because being a passenger on the giving bus – i.e. a Provider – comes with benefits, which include:
- Building and exerting your influence
- Improving or solving a societal problem
- Expanding your network
- Leveraging your network
- Increasing your credibility
- Removing any suspicions of a hidden agenda
- Healthier, more transparent relationships
- Helping people
Yes, you can actually drive growth for your business by being a Provider, doing things like having your leadership team support their teams to volunteer.
But not just one-off volunteering. Handing out turkeys on Thanksgiving is really sweet, but the real impact of that is minimal. It’s just arms and legs, no heart.
The kind of volunteering I’m talking about is the fulfilling, impactful kind. It requires a block of time, preferably at least two hours a week. (A consistent chunk of time prevents volunteer hours from spilling into other schedules and meetings).
By encouraging your team to volunteer and supporting them in that, you’ll find that they not only feel more fulfilled and happy, but they’ll begin building their own leadership qualities outside of your cost structure.
Volunteering Outside the Workplace Translates to Growth Inside the Workplace.
The skills your team develops in their volunteer work comes right back into the workplace. Your team starts becoming more accountable for their work and they’ll start to hold other people more accountable. They’ll be much more giving and helpful for their teammates as well.
You’re not putting money into them for courses or classes. They’re taking their personal time to grow.
Who doesn’t want a team that is taking their own time to grow to become better leaders?
Taking this full circle, you’ll even notice increased productivity out of your team who volunteers. That’s business growth.
You’ll also prevent turnover by encouraging employees to volunteer. Churn is one of the greatest inhibitors to growth in a business. Volunteering is risk mitigation.
I’ve experienced it myself. I’ve had companies where people stay for years, and that’s awesome. I’ve also had companies where I couldn’t hold somebody in a position for longer than a year. Churn hurts because it prohibits us from growing to the degree that we want.
Volunteering as a retention strategy occurs because you’re able to keep your talent happy, even if they don’t find fulfillment at work.
Executives oftentimes lose touch with this. They start to believe that their team loves coming to work and buys into the company mission 100%. But if your goals relate to profit or selling the company (and they probably are), your employees see right through your mission… especially millennials.
Employees won’t find fulfillment at work when your purpose and values are about making a profit. You can’t bullshit about that.
Employees can, however, find fulfillment outside of work through volunteerism. When they know that their employer supports them in that, they feel connected to your company values in a tangible way.
That’s the intrinsic value you provide when you encourage and support volunteering. It helps motivate your employees and increase their productivity. You’ve now turned volunteering into an asset for your business, and you can build a culture around that.
You can leverage that culture to attract better talent — talent that otherwise wouldn’t want to work for you, but they stand by your business because you stand for something greater. No window dressing bullshit required. That actually means something to people.
You have the capacity to use giving as a resource to grow your business. Are you going to use it or not?
KEY CONCEPT: Giving is an important business strategy. The C-Suite needs to recognize that by not doing it, they’re under-utilizing an asset and a resource that they have at their disposal.
Next Step: 4 Concrete Ways The C-Suite Can Motivate Employees To Volunteer
#1. Encourage employees to volunteer for 2 hours per week.
As a C-Suite, your goal should be to encourage your employees to volunteer at least two hours a week.
Two hours is scientifically proven to be the optimal amount of time per week to volunteer in order to achieve true levels of fulfillment. By chunking that 2 hours into uninterrupted blocks, volunteer time doesn’t blend into an email in the middle of the workday or a meeting at the beginning of the week.
You carve out two hours of time every week and people feel like they can manage that better. Those two hours of volunteer work shouldn’t require too much prep, if any. Volunteers should feel like they can show up in the moment and still be completely effective.
#2. Financially back your employees.
You have several ways to do this.
Option A: Support their volunteer hours with a dollar level.
Let’s say George volunteers two hours a week for 50 weeks a year. That’s 100 volunteer hours per year. Put $10 behind an hour of his volunteerism and that comes out to a $1,000 donation in his name or on behalf of your business.
Remember: that $1,000 is tax-deductible, so really you’re looking at a $667 cash contribution.
Regardless, your $667 donation signals to your employee that you care about them and you care about helping the community.
Option B: Buy a table.
Causes and nonprofits always have galas, breakfasts, and lunches, and there’s always a need to have corporate sponsors host a table.
Nonprofits are terrible at proving an ROI for this. They claim that it’s marketing dollars, but all of us entrepreneurs and executives know that’s bullshit. Nobody is getting leads from sponsoring a table.
As a company, table sponsorship is less about marketing and more about what the nonprofit will do for you. This all goes back to employee retention and happiness.
Instead of approaching table sponsorship from a marketing perspective, say you’re doing it in support of your employees. Buy a table for 10 of your employees. You’re bringing these employees together around a cause and showing them that you support a fellow co-worker and the community. You’re also introducing them to one of society’s many challenges that exist outside of the workplace.
If you really wanted to extend table sponsorship into some marketing, feel free. Your table of 10 could be made up of 6 employees, you, and 3 other people – either clients or prospects. It’ll show those people that you’re a trustworthy person to do business with.
Option C: Grant Matching.
This simply means that if your employee is willing to give a certain amount of money, so are you.
This can be a set amount. Maybe make it a simple $500. Or you can make it conditional, put limits on it, and require an application.
Whatever method you choose, matching a grant shows employees that you want to financially stand by them in solving a societal problem.
“But what if I don’t believe in the cause?”
It doesn’t matter. You believe in your crew. When you believe in your crew as your #1 asset, you invest in the asset. It’s as simple as that.
You’re not there to judge whether their cause is one that you believe in. Do you believe in that person? If you make an investment in them and derive an ROI from it, then that’s good for you.
You’re fulfilling them. That’s good business.
Option D: Celebrate Volunteerism In Your Company
Celebrating employees who volunteer publicly demonstrates your values as a company. Here’s how to do it.
- Set a goal for anybody who volunteers a certain number of hours a year. I recommend 100 hours a year since it represents the optimal 2 hours a week.
- Throw a party for any employee who reaches that goal. This party celebrates the fact that you have people in your company who have given up their time to give back. You’re also showing the rest of your company that you’re investing in the community and empowering your employees to become leaders.
- When you throw the celebration, say that 10% of what’s spent at the bar is going to support a cause.
This is about partying with a benefit. That shows that you’re able to truly understand the mindset of your employees.
Option E: Invite your employees to a company-wide challenge.
All that’s required for this one is a quick email that you can send to your employees right now. Explain how you’ll attach a special bonus to anyone who volunteers two hours a week for 50 weeks in 2018.
Decide what that bonus will be. You could put $10 behind every hour they volunteer. You could throw a party. You could host a table at their gala.
Put out the 100-hour challenge right now. Show that you’ve got your employees backs. You want to stand side-by-side with them. It doesn’t have to cost you much.
Watch the change happen in your company culture. Watch how excited people get about it. Hold them accountable for their volunteering.
But maybe you’re not an executive.
How can employees approach the C-Suite and get them to encourage giving?
The first step is understanding what’s universally important to the C-Suite.
Revenue. Costs. Profit.
You cannot go into the C-Suite looking for a handout. They’ll see right through that. You help society by giving them a hand up, not a handout, so you need to position your ask the same way.
The second step is preparing what to say when you approach the C-Suite.
Here’s a good sample script to get you started. I’ll use Minds Matter as an example.
- State your purpose.
“I’d like to continue to grow as a leader. I want to inspire my team and co-workers to lead. One of the ways I’m looking to do this is actually somewhat creative and outside of the box.”
- Introduce the cause and what your function will be as a volunteer.
“There’s a nonprofit that allows me to mentor a young student for two hours every week for three years.”
“Over those years, I’ll be learning how to hold somebody else accountable in a challenging situation.”
- List your responsibilities and the skills you’ll develop.
“I’ll be responsible for making sure that this person grows and is being nurtured.”
“That mentorship actually means I have to be empathetic and understand where my mentee is coming from. I’ll build my skills in all those areas.”
- NOW you can ask.
“I was wondering if you would be willing to support me in that? It’s not a paid program. You don’t have to pay for anything, but rather than asking you for an education stipend, would you be willing to support this cause that I’ve got?”
“Rather than using the education money towards courses that may not benefit me, I’d like to learn leadership through this hands-on application. In doing so I’ll be bettering the life of somebody else. Would you be willing to put $5,000 behind me?”
- Add in a few secondary benefits as they relate to the company.
“Oh, by the way, here’re some of the other people on the board I thought you might be interested in. They’re all well-networked and they happen to be folks that might be interested in doing business with our company if we show that we have shared values.”
Meet the C-Suite where they’re at and I promise they’ll be more open to your request.
Being a Strategic Giver Means Choosing a Non-Profit Strategically
It’s essential that you get something out of your volunteer experience, otherwise you’ll burn out.
Maybe you’re really passionate about serving two hours every week in a food kitchen, but what are you learning from it? If you’re not learning while volunteering, you’re not growing. You will burn out.
There are so many great programs out there. I’ll mention one of them because I’m part of it and I believe wholeheartedly in it. It’s called Minds Matter. Minds Matter is a mentoring organization for low-income, high-achieving kids.
The chapter that we have here in Denver is 14 years old, and we’ve had 100% of our graduates go to college with scholarships, thanks to our mentors. Each student has two mentors that meet with them two hours every Monday night after work, and that two hours is a very specific number.
Look for a nonprofit that builds up leadership skills. Ideally this nonprofit has a training program and an ongoing cultivation of leaders. You want to volunteer with an organization that provides clear visibility into the direct impact you make via a solid feedback loop. You want to see, on a week-by-week basis, the impact you make by volunteering.
That sustains you and prevents burn out.
That’s the type of nonprofit that gives you the greatest ROI. Any C-Suite would be crazy not to join.