Most businesses know that being an upstanding corporate citizen is a good idea. And many have laudable corporate responsibility practices in place, such as only purchasing recycled paper products or donating funds to established national philanthropic organizations.
But what about needs closer to home? By being part of and contributing to their local communities, businesses can better retain their employees, build brand awareness and make new relationships (which could lead to new clients). And it's not hard to get started. Here, we give a rundown of our top six ways to get involved in your community.
With the majority of American consumers reporting that the sustainability practices of companies are an important factor when they decide which products to buy, it's imperative that businesses be -- and show themselves to be -- good stewards of the Earth's resources. Yet many typical workplace practices can hardly be described as 'green': lights are constantly left on, regardless of whether a room is occupied; computers remain on overnight; soda bottles get dumped in the garbage.
If any of this sounds like your office, undertake an environmental-awareness initiative. Ask that everyone turn off their computers before leaving for the day. Make sure employees know to turn off lights when a room is empty. Ask management about getting additional recycling bins so no one is tempted to trash their Coke cans.
In charge of purchasing for your office? Rather than buy from some big-box store headquartered thousands of miles from your company, look around you. Is there a locally owned business that produces or sells what you need? Buying locally keeps money in your community. So contact a local business that provides the goods you're looking for and see what they can offer you. If you're planning to buy in large quantities or at regular, frequent intervals, they might be willing to offer you a deal -- and you might find their pricing competitive with or even better than what you were paying the much-larger competitor.
Some companies allow their employees a paid day or two each year to volunteer locally for a philanthropic cause of their choosing. If yours isn't one of them, talk to management about changing that.
You may be surprised at the level of enthusiasm the new policy generates. Here at Metro Offices, staff regularly volunteer locally. Our founder, Kathlene Buchanan, has been so moved by some of her team's volunteerism that she has become a personal supporter of many of the organizations where they've served, including the Embry Rucker Community Shelter in Reston, Jill’s House in Vienna and The House DC in Anacostia.
Volunteering can boost employee morale, strengthen relationships between colleagues and keep workers -- and it may even boost the bottom line.
Encourage staff to take their annual day by compiling and posting in a common area, such as the kitchen or break room, a list of locally based groups or organizations that need or use volunteers.
If your company has the means, consider offering a 'matching' program: For every dollar an employee donates to a local charity, donate 50 cents of company profit.
Bonus: You'll be getting your staff out of their chairs -- and doing their collective health a favor.
Do it for the kids
Find a children's sports organization that you can get behind and support from behind the scenes or in person. Little League is a time-honored American tradition -- and one that depends on sponsorship for survival. Donations go toward the purchase of sports equipment and uniforms, baseball-field upkeep, insurance and more. Millions of kids participate on a team with the organization, so chances are there is a league in your neck of the woods. (For more information on how to become a sponsor, visit littleleague.com.)
Have a bit more to give? Consider building a playground or donating money to purchase playground equipment for a park in your community. Playgrounds offer children numerous physical, social and emotional benefits, and serve as a meeting spot for the community, encouraging interaction and the forming of interpersonal bonds.
Perhaps your community has a July Fourth block party every year or holds a weekly farmers market during the summer. If so, make the time and effort to be part of it. Donate baked goods for the holiday celebration or sponsor a tented 'cool-down' station at the market, complete with water-bottle-refill stations (and several large dog water bowls).
If your community doesn't do anything like this, here's your chance to start a tradition. Work with your management and the management of other companies on your floor or in your building to team up and start a regular, free-to-attend event for the people and businesses in your neighborhood.
Chances are there's at least one worthy cause in your community that could put a donation of some sort to good use. Funds are always appreciated, but you could also ask what specific items are needed and then collect and deliver them.
After learning about the noble mission of the Washington-based McClendon Center, which assists mentally ill District residents with housing, therapy, and other aid, we at Metro Offices partnered with the organization. Together, this year we're holding the center's first-ever Dignity Drive, collecting toiletries, socks, and underwear for McClendon clients.
Take a page from our book and hold your own dignity drive for a local cause. This could mean you'll be collecting dog and cat food for a local pet shelter, nonperishable edibles for a food pantry or used cell phones for a charity. Whatever you have in mind, be sure to check with the organization you have in mind before you begin collecting. You want to be sure you're donating what's actually needed. The last thing you want is to contribute to more waste.
Speaking of waste, don't do it when it comes to money, either! If you're looking for office space in the DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia area, be it shared, temporary or virtual, Metro Offices has you covered -- often for considerably less than you'd pay with a traditional lease and associated expenses. Click here to compare the cost of running your own office vs. the cost of simply letting Metro Offices do the work for you.