Selling Power – July/August 2009
"Good Deeds – How Companies and Sales Professionals are Making a Positive Impact on the Lives of Others"
by Kim Wright Wiley
(article only available online with subscription – excerpts shown here)
Corporate involvement in worthwhile causes obviously helps the recipients of these services, but it can also help motivate a sales team. “A community service project utilizes the same principles as any other kind of group activity, but true bonding is much more prevalent when giving back is involved,” says Alan Ranzer, Managing Partner of Impact 4 Good, a socially responsible team-building company in Washington DC. “When you’ve worked together with your colleagues to change somebody’s life, it’s something you never forget. You call upon it weeks, months, and even years later, and when correctly utilized, these projects can inspire employees to perform better.”
Impact 4 Good (www.impact4good.com) plans and facilitates for corporate groups community-service-based activities that meet motivational objectives while assisting those in need. The range of projects the organization has developed is truly diverse. Last February, Impact 4 Good was asked to customize an activity that would be fun and motivating for participants who were attending a retreat near Atlanta. The company’s goals were to simultaneously integrate business objectives – in this case teambuilding – while giving back to the community, and the result was the Murphy Family Project.
The Murphys, who were already the parents of four, had opened their home to 23 children with Down syndrome, so activity participants constructed cubbies, providing each child a place to store personal belongings, keeping clutter to a minimum. The activity began with a short video about the family, and then the group got busy hammering, nailing, and decorating the cubbies, as well as wrapping gifts for the family. At the conclusion of the session, 18 of the Murphy children walked into the ballroom to an emotional standing ovation from the corporate group.
“Participants don’t necessarily have to know the people they’re helping for a morale boost to occur,” says Ranzer, “but they do need to understand the recipient’s situation. A good community service program must also raise awareness. Yes, simply building a Habitat for Humanity home is rewarding. But building that same home after learning what the new homeowner has been through, the process a person must go through to be accepted into the program, or the plight of the homeless in a given community makes the experience all the more real.”
Ranzer believes humans have an inherent desire to reach out to each other but adds, “Oftentimes, people need a little help to find these opportunities to give back. When an employee is given such an opportunity by an employer, it builds feelings of pride and loyalty toward the company. When employees feel good about the company they work for, they are more willing to go the extra mile to get the task at hand done to the best of their ability.”
Just as in the Aflac bone marrow drive (not shown in article excerpts here), what starts as one simple gesture of giving often accelerates into more. Ranzer recalls a program designed to benefit a school for the homeless in San Diego. “At the end of the program,” he says, “the company made an additional financial donation of $500, which was then matched by two participants at the meeting, resulting in $1,500 for the school.”
“Another client we worked with in Jamaica hired us to run a program that resulted in the assembly of beehives for a local beekeeping cooperative. Rather than just donate the beehives, which were used by farmers to increase their income, the company purchased honey from the farmers and had their local office contact the cooperative president to discuss ongoing support of their efforts.”
The ways in which companies can develop giving initiatives are endless. Some large organizations, such as Microsoft, encourage employees to donate to causes of their choosing and then provide matching funds. Other businesses give participants a volunteer day that doesn’t count against their vacation. And it’s hard to come across a company that doesn’t have a corporate social-responsibility officer and information on its website about various causes it supports and why those causes are important to the organization.
“In these hard times, employees and employers are realizing that they need to work together more efficiently,” says Ranzer, “and these programs bring people together to do that in a really impactful way. They have the added benefit of making changes in the lives of people, so it’s not just frivolous fun.” And in a financial environment in which expensive jaunts to Hawaii are becoming increasingly incompatible with cultural mores, showing concern for others isn’t just politically correct, it’s hypermotivating.
“People forget certain kinds of rewards,” says Ranzer, “but they never forget these experiences. Nor do they forget the people with whom they shared them.”