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Companies with Heart: Building a Culture of Giving

Why limit giving back to a season when you can make it a year-round initiative that inspires employees and benefits your community?

This article originally appeared in Inc.

The holidays are a wonderful time of family, friends, food and festivities. They are also a time for giving. Not only do I mean giving gifts to one another but also giving to those less fortunate than you, so that they can experience the holiday cheer as well. Whether you’re volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating gifts to a local children’s organization or conducting a holiday food drive, giving funds or your time are things you can do as a group with your whole team.

But let’s go a step beyond doing just one volunteer activity or fundraising initiative around the end of the year. Instead, why not make it a resolution for giving to become a regular part of your company culture in the coming year?

Here’s how you do it:

1. Include giving in your core values

Your core values are what drive the organization and help you to make decisions, plans and strategies. They outline what is most important to the organization and are the foundation of your company’s culture. Meaning, if giving and philanthropy are to be part of the fabric of your organization, include it in your core values.

It doesn’t matter how you word it–every company may state it differently– but make sure it is represented in some way. Then, put those words in your company handbook, on display in the office or wherever your core values are written for all employees to access, digest and be reminded.

2. Sanction regular philanthropy initiatives

Creating any part of your culture is bigger than words on paper. You want everyone to know this is a company value and for them to live by it every day–like all your core values. Start a new philanthropic campaign every quarter, or even every month if you really want to drive the habit home. There are many ways to give back and many causes to choose from, so the opportunities are almost endless.

Company-wide philanthropic activities engage your team in something they can all rally behind. Plus, they can help build stronger bonds as team members observe the collective impact that they can make on their community. In turn, they’re excited to do even more.

Some companies even incorporate the ability to give back into their standard operating procedures, such as making a small donation to a local organization for every client survey completed or donating a percentage of each quarter’s revenue. For example, one thing we do is to have every person in a member company write thank-you notes to active-duty soldiers as part of the planning meeting. However you choose to give back, make sure it is a continuous effort.

3. Match campaigns to your mission

I don’t recommend helping just any charity–choose organizations that promote a similar mission and core values to yours. That’s the best way to ingrain giving into your culture.

For example, if your mission as a food packaging company is to “feed the people of America,” have regular food drives for organizations that combat food insecurity. Our company’s mission is to help entrepreneurs succeed in business, so many of our philanthropic initiatives center around supporting fellow entrepreneurial organizations.

By focusing on causes that resonate with your team members, and assuming you have a great team whose values align with those of the company, you’ll gain their buy-in because the cause is something they agree with and willingly support. And we all know that no initiative can be 100 percent successful without the unwavering support from the team carrying it out.

As with any additions to your culture, start from where you are and build on it gradually. You don’t want to pile it on too thick all at once, or you may overwhelm the team. If your company typically does one yearly fundraising initiative, make it two for the coming year. If you’ve never done any charity work as a company, start with something small like a food drive or participating in a philanthropic walk or fun run to introduce the idea.

In a chapter about giving during the holidays, my new book emphasizes that the holidays don’t have to create stressful work environments. Likewise, your efforts to give back don’t have to add significantly to anyone’s workload. Choose causes and campaigns based on your values, the work your company already does, and the teams you’re working with, and the volunteers should eagerly fall into place.