Giving back is when we give and then nothing happens. No benefits for you, no recognition, nothing tangible gets sent your way. The biggest and sole reward is the realization that we have made a difference. However, there is very little in life do we do and “nothing” happens. Gaining skills, knowledge and expertise are common side effects and giving others your time may bring you interesting and challenging opportunities that might not come along otherwise.
Being a good corporate citizen has many different values and is assessed in many ways. One of the key assessments is to be recognized by your key stakeholders as being a leader in your industry through your commitments. We know that it is good for business, good for staff moral and good for the community, but the question is often how we should do it?
Giving back can be about pro bono work or donating to a worthy cause. It can also be more. It can be about building a culture that gives back. Some firms have done this by finding mutually beneficial alliances that staff are passionate about – Lawyers without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, local children’s hospitals, are just a few.
For our 70th anniversary last year we partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). There was a monetary donation, in kind support at the CMHAs first annual Mental Health for All national convention, local level participation and support throughout Canada, mutually beneficial marketing opportunities and joint learning opportunities. CMHA provided education to our staff, materials and insight into mental health awareness that we would have not have been able to deliver without their support. We asked staff to select a cause that they were passionate about. They voted for mental health, something that is important to them and is important to our organization.
Nobody has to give back, but making it part of your organization is the right thing to do. The best causes are ones that “click” with what your organization believes in, rather than simply doing what the other firms are doing. There are many causes that have a big voice and get lots of participation, but if you speak with your staff that are actually giving time, money or other support, these causes do not always resonate with them. Be authentic. Do something that is meaningful for your people that fits within your culture.