September 17, 2012

A Great Business Way to Give Back to Your Community

By Paul Bieber

Just about all glass shops and fabricators are for-profit businesses. If you are a not-for-profit at the current moment, good luck.  I know of only one glass organization that really is a not-for profit and that is a church group in Brooklyn, NY, that makes their own IG for the many buildings they own and manage.  But that’s for another day.  How can a for-profit company give back to its community, especially in tough economic times, and why would you want to?

Let’s take the WHY first.

  • It feels good.  I can’t explain this or try to convince you of this.  It either does or it doesn’t.
  • You’ll build a team feeling within your employees.  You can’t place a dollar value on this, but it is a plus for your company.
  • You can get strong publicity opportunities, which will help your company’s image and probably draw in customers.
  • You may get some tax savings, but this should be the lowest priority in your mind.

Now the HOW.

  • Adopt a not-for-profit organization that you are comfortable supporting. Take one afternoon a quarter and do a clean-up project; paint a room or two; place better insulation in their roof or walls, or even, replace windows with IG that will save the organization fuel dollars.  Pay your employees for their time up to the normal day end.  The time they spend beyond that is their contribution.  If you stay late, split the cost of dinner with the organization.  If you do this on a Saturday,  bring in the coffee, donuts, and pizza for lunch.  Not all of your employees will agree to work at your choice of organization, or maybe they have to get home to baby sit, or have a part-time job on Saturdays.  Don’t hold this against anyone.  If they want to work in your shop on that Friday afternoon, that’s OK to.  You may need to leave one person there to handle walk-ins.
  • Right now you probably have more time than money.  It is easier to donate time and since you are paying your folks anyway, this doesn’t affect your normal cash flow.  I have seen this work, and in most business the employees work harder on the days before the volunteer effort so their work load is finished before taking the afternoon away from the shop!
  • So many organizations come to you asking for a donation.  It is endless.  Pick one or two charities in your local region and set-up a payroll deduction so your employees may donate.  It may be only a couple of dollars a week, but at the end of the year, one big check from you to the local Red Cross will be significant.  Avoid doing this for a religious institution, though.  This may cause some dissension in the work force.  Doing the repair and maintenance at a religious building is OK; it is the donation of money that seems to cause some dissension.  You should plan on a matching program based on your employee’s gifts.  It doesn’t have to be one-for-one, it can be at any level.  But do something.
  • Ask a key vendor to work with you in this program.  If you are going to replace a store front for the United Way, get a discount on the metal and glass from your fabricator.  They should be glad to participate in your act of doing good.  Be sure to mention them in the publicity.
  • Ask the Mayor of your town where the help is needed most.  It may be a local charity, or an elementary school with a leaky roof.  Maybe your IT genius can help train some teachers on the use of tablet computers.  You can donate your older PC’s as you upgrade yours.  Maybe an art class would like your mirror cutoffs or a sculpture class wants your metal scraps.  Ask your office manager to help high school seniors prepare a resume.  How about your salespeople giving a course in how to use PowerPoint.
  • A good benchmark is to allow one or two percent of your work hours to be used for helping others.

What are YOUR BENEFITS, and how do you maximize them?

  • A proud work force works better, which will improve the rest of your business.  Many studies have shown that a companiy’s work force is more satisfied with their jobs after completing a project for Habitat for Humanity, for instance.
  • You get a warm, fuzzy feeling that you have done something good for others.
  • And from a business point of view, take plenty of pictures and submit them to your local paper.  Alert a local TV or radio station and let them interview your employees.  This kind of publicity is priceless, and has been proven to bring in customers to your store.  This doesn’t mean they will buy from you.  You still need the right products at the right pricing, but getting people in the door is the big, first step in completing a sale. 
  • You get a warm, fuzzy feeling that you have done something good for others. 
  • Maybe you have some IG units that were the wrong size or tint.  Giving them away to an organization who wants a porch built, and the glass size doesn’t matter, saves you throwing the units into the dumpster, and you get the sincere thanks from the organization.
  • And last, but not least, you get a warm, fuzzy feeling that you have done something good for others.