‘Tis the Season for Charitable Giving

Jeff Kaliner
December 14, 2012
THE TALK... | Management

Every business owner knows that a successful corporate social responsibility strategy can do a lot for both your business and your community. During the holiday season, especially, many businesses put an emphasis on finding ways to give back, either by supporting a national cause such as Toys for Tots or by acting more locally and contributing to a local nonprofit or family in need.

The holidays are a great time to enlist both employees and customers to get involved by appealing to the general feelings of generosity and good will that seem to permeate the atmosphere during November and December every year. However, a true CSR strategy involves much more than just aligning your business with a cause during the holiday season and writing a check.

At Power, one of our major priorities is identifying philanthropic and community relations opportunities that are not only in line with our overall mission, but that strike a chord with our employees, inspiring them to get involved all year long. Since founding the company 20 years ago, we’ve contributed time and money to organizations such as YouthBuild USA and Habitat For Humanity, among several other smaller organizations looking for sponsors for anything from youth baseball teams to races for various charities.

In 2011, we were given the opportunity to make an even bigger contribution to an important cause when we became a National Corporate Sponsor for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a leading organization dedicated to pediatric cancer research. Our annual commitment to this foundation includes the promise of one dollar per window, per square foot of siding and per square foot of roofing installed throughout the year, as well as related initiatives, such as Power Month for Alex’s, a company-wide, month-long initiative aimed at raising money, and awareness, in each of the markets Power does business.

Making the decision to make charitable giving a priority throughout the year can be a daunting endeavor for any business. Here’s a few recommendations for how to make sure your CSR strategy achieves more for your business than just the warm and fuzzy reaction elicited by doing a good deed during the holidays:

  • Make your employees a part of the decision. In an era when free time feels exceedingly scarce, and in an industry where the traditional work week often creeps into the weekend, even employees with the best intentions can feel reluctant to give up free time to volunteer, especially if they don’t feel connected to the cause. Take a survey or ask around the office to ensure the charity you choose is one that resonates with the majority and compels more employees to take interest.
  • Offer incentives, in addition to volunteer opportunities. Power Month included volunteer opportunities for our 1,200 employees, such as hosting lemonade stands in the office and at home, as well as special events like Power Night at the Philadelphia Union’s PPL Park, where we hosted employees, their families, and several Alex “Hero” families at a tailgate and in our suite to watch a Major League Soccer game. Employees that raised the most money for the foundation were also awarded individual cash prizes they could keep or donate back to the charity. By creating a balance of time spent volunteering with time relaxing alongside coworkers and family members, we were able to both increase participation and thank our employees for sharing in our commitment.
  • Spread the word among employees and customers. Implementing a charitable outreach program, no matter the size, can foster feelings of loyalty and pride among employees and customers alike—provided they are aware of the company’s commitment to the project. Utilize tools like blogs, social media and customer communications to spread the message to your audience and you’ll likely ensure a greater level of participation, ultimately increasing both the final donation amount and the pride everyone feels from supporting a business that gives back.

Perhaps most importantly, set a realistic goal for yourself and your company when embarking on your first charitable outreach initiative. It’s OK to start small and work toward growing the program each year, especially if that means making manageable and sustainable contributions throughout the year, not just during the holiday season.

Jeff Kaliner is a founding partner of Power Home Remodeling Group, the nation’s fourth largest home remodeling company with more than 1,200 employees and $135 million in annual sales. Power provides windows, doors and other exterior remodeling products to homeowners in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Georgia. Started in 1992, Power is a past Window & Door Dealer of the Year, as well as an Inc. 5000 company. Having served more than 50,000 homeowners, the company has also been recognized as a "Top Workplace" by The Philadelphia Inquirer.