Businesses today are increasingly interested in how they can be more “socially responsible,” yet the steps to get there can seem ambiguous and hard to accomplish in the mix of day-to-day work.
While businesses might see the benefit of adding robust social responsibility to their agenda, many don’t have the time, resources or experience to make it happen. This is doubly true for small businesses and startups: While large corporations may look to refine an existing CSR agenda (and can dedicate the staff to do so), smaller businesses often have a lot less to work with.
That’s where I come in. As chief service officer of the City of Philadelphia through the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service, I make it easier for businesses to make lasting impact on their communities through volunteering. In addition to managing several of the city’s largest and most impactful service programs, such as Foster Grandparents and SERVE Philly VISTA, my office has worked with groups from university students to the Philadelphia 76ers and Lowe’s to create meaningful service projects that align with an organization’s mission.
If you’re looking to leave the community in which you do business better than you found it, here’s how to get started:
- Pick a cause — Talk to your coworkers and find out what issues they care about most. Discuss what type of service everyone is comfortable doing. Do you mind getting dirty? Would you like to work with people or animals?
- Discuss the commitment you’re ready to make — Many organizations start with a one off volunteer day. Others seek something more long-term that will allow their group to sustainably improve specific outcomes. Still others prefer to donate money or needed items. All of these are wonderful. Discover what is best for your group.
- Do your research — Contact organizations doing work that aligns with your interests and the desired parameters of the project. Be sure to ask about the impact your service project will have. Also ask if there is anything your group should know prior to volunteering such as suggested attire or physical requirements. It’s good to talk to a few people about different opportunities.
- Talk options — Work with your group to choose the one that is the best fit. By getting input from the rest of your team, you will ensure that they feel more connected to the service project.
- Do the work — Show up ready to do whatever is needed with a smile. Have fun with your coworkers and enjoy the feeling of giving back to your community. Remember to take pictures and share them on social media. We use #Phillyheroes for all of our service projects and you should, too! It’s a great way to see people giving back all over Philadelphia.
- Debrief with the team — Ask what they loved. Ask what they might not want to do again. Go back to #1 and start again.
There are also some incredible resources for socially responsible business. Philadelphia has a nationally recognized Corporate Volunteer Council that meets on a monthly basis. This group is convened by the United Way and provides a space for members of the corporate social responsibility community to learn from each other and share ideas. In addition, my office is always willing to help businesses engage in service, whether through a single day, or something more lasting.
From our Partners
If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming and you are looking for a quick way to make a difference, you might consider donating for #GivingTuesday, Nov. 29. This year, Mayor Kenney is supporting the School District of Philadelphia by giving to the Right Books campaign.
No matter what you choose, you should feel great about your decision to serve. Support from the business community is critical to the continued growth of our city. Our organization is here to help, and we hope you’ll join us in making Philadelphia a better place to work, do business in and live for generations to come.
Please reach out to myself or Sanya Brown, my deputy for volunteer engagement, to get started. Whatever your budget and time, we can make something wonderful happen.-30-
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