Building a Company Culture for Community Outreach
A commitment to serving our communities is giving back to the people who have made our business successful.
Giving back is not just a social responsibility, moral obligation, and quite simply, the right thing to do for franchise systems; it’s also an economic imperative. Community relations is becoming more and more important to consumers and employees alike. A 2012 study by the U.S. Corporation for National and Community Service found that two-out-of-three citizens serve their communities today and the volunteer rate continues to increase significantly each year.
Outreach increases brand awareness on the national level and in the individual franchisee communities. All credible studies show that volunteerism boosts employee morale, leadership opportunities and the bottom line. The community tie-in as a good corporate citizen also differentiates a franchise from competing concepts.
National franchise systems are challenged to create a local presence − a business run by a neighbor, contributing to the local economy, not a national corporation driving out an independent establishment. Community outreach lets the public know that while you are part of a large, national organization, you live, work and invest in the communities you serve.
Many franchise systems partner with local charities to contribute to causes that are important to employees and customers. Since 1991, Express Employment Professionals has contributed more than $4 million to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which raises funds for children’s hospitals in local franchisee communities.
Our new national campaign, Brand It Blue Day, helps fight hunger through local food drives. This summer, more than 190 offices took part in the company’s national day of service June 8. More than 1,500 volunteers collected 100,000 pounds of food for 95,000 meals for people in need all across North America.
We believe that cultivating a culture of service can have a significant impact on communities. Outreach and volunteer work can and should be a vibrant part of every franchise system. One of the best ways to do that is to make community relations an important part of your company culture. Here are some guidelines to help achieve that goal.
Communicate Core Values. The passion for building a corporate culture for charitable giving starts at the top. Set the direction with a mission and vision. Community-minded franchise investors want to connect to the core values of a brand that are community driven. Make this message a part of your marketing, orientation and training: “Join our organization and be a part of a successful business, as well as one with a proven philanthropic vision.”
Prioritize and Encourage. The franchise model lends itself to independence. Empower franchisees to make the community connections that they need to be successful. Some franchisees have been in the community for years and find helping their neighbors rewarding. Support their passion by elevating the priority of community and charitable affiliations for every franchisee and employee. Don’t make giving back mandatory, but encourage it. The message: They will get back more than they give.
Create Unity. Get behind a national cause that energizes, unifies and builds a sense of community at all levels of the franchise system. Present ideas for a national project in a focus group of franchisees or conduct a national survey. Pick a charity large enough that each of the franchises can be paired with a chapter and the money raised stays local.
Build a National Team. Form a community relations committee or board of directors for the cause made up of corporate staff and franchisees. Pick national leaders of volunteer efforts whose attitudes are infectious. They will spread success throughout the entire system. Share best practices through corporate media channels or workshops at leadership conferences. It is motivating to hear what other franchises are doing. Others will adopt good ideas. The board can meet a couple times a year to organize the annual charity campaign or have virtual meetings. The charity board can also give updates to the system on their efforts at the annual conference.
Provide Resources. Have one or more people at the corporate office take charge of organizing an annual charity campaign. It’s a communications and marketing team effort. Provide your franchise system with a national plan for giving back, a step-by-step instruction guide to raise money, awareness and credibility for local organizations of its choice. These individuals should be responsible for making it simple for franchisees to join in. Create the design elements and communications materials that franchisees will need. Make it as easy as possible to implement and customize to individual markets.
Community outreach lets the public know that while you are part of a large, national organization, you live, work and invest in the communities you serve.
On the local level, create a team and give each person a role and management responsibilities. Give them the time and resources to put together a fundraiser, golf tournament, sponsorship, raffle, bake sale or auction. Support them in hosting a community event, mentoring at risk children or providing disaster relief.
Financial Contributions. Supply grants to community projects, local initiatives and programs that support your charitable mission. Match contributions to funds raised by the local franchise.
Engage Your Customers. People want to purchase from a business that is sincere and authentic about giving. Make customers aware of your commitment and efforts, engage them in your cause and provide them with opportunities to give back and serve. You may want to encourage customers to donate directly to your cause by pledging donations for every contract signed.
Get Connected. Assume leadership positions with nonprofit organizations and civic groups, and encourage your franchisees to do so as well. Look for every opportunity to show your face in the community and develop relationships with like-minded business professionals.
Recognize Contributions. Honor franchisees and employees who make the most outstanding contributions in community service. Do so within the office, at leadership conventions and through the media. Highlight what they’ve done through a recognition ceremony.
Generate Publicity. Stories of franchisees and franchisors giving back to the community generate media attention. Get the word out to local newspapers, radio and television through news releases. Use your website, social media, blogs, email and telephone channels to communicate. You will benefit from the positive brand exposure.
As franchisors and franchisees, our passion is to help people. A commitment to serving our community is giving back to those who have made our businesses successful. We would not be where we are without the support of the local market and community.
Robert A. Funk, CFE, is chairman, chief executive officer and president of Express Employment Professionals, which provides expertise in evaluation hire, temporary staffing, professional search and human resources, and works across a wide variety of industries. The company has more than 600 franchises in the United States, Canada and South Africa. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.