• January 2011

Make Your HR Department A Champion For Nonprofit Outreach Efforts

By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author
The Essential HR Handbook

Research shows us that increasingly, organizations are realizing it is good for their bottom line to donate to charitable causes.

It positively impacts their reputation in the marketplace, and it helps attract and retain the high-quality employees who want to work for companies that strive to do good.

This is an exciting development that appears to be gaining momentum — and Human Resources Departments can help.

Doing well by doing good

Here are three simple ways your HR Department can be effective champions for your nonprofit outreach:

1. Since the HR team is often the one that coordinates the hiring of an employee, it is perfectly positioned to get the word out about the company’s philanthropic goals during the interview and orientation. In fact, some organizations, such as Sun Microsystems in Santa Clara, CA, consider their commitment to being a socially responsible organization when evaluating whether job candidates will be a good fit for the company.

2. Organizations should emphasize their charitable work — such as their commitment to the environment — in their marketing materials for the general public, and for potential job applicants.

3. As organizations tie their giving to one or two specific causes, the HR Department can ask employees to suggest charities they would like to work with. This encourages employee participation, and helps the HR team coordinate the goals and needs of employees and managers.

Case in point

One of my clients recently started a charitable-giving program and carefully evaluated where their contribution could have maximum impact.

Since they have employees across the country, they wanted to work with a national charity. The management team selected Habitat for Humanity and made a donation to the local affiliate, and had a wonderful experience taking a group of volunteer employees to a home-building site. The team of employees spent a long Saturday working on a home and while there, built stronger relationships with each other.

The HR Department coordinated all the activities, including having lunch delivered to the site for the volunteers.

In 2011, the company also plans to participate in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure fundraising walks. The management team sees this as a chance to give back to the communities they work in, and it is also a way to build stronger working relationships with employees.

Another approach

Other organizations that I have worked with have tapped the strengths of their workers to give back to the community. For example, a Massachusetts firm supports an organization that provides training and education to people who have limited work skills. Their employees, led by the HR staff, help with writing resumes and interviewing skills. Then the company puts them to work in internships.

This integrated approach to reaching out to the local community not only makes a dramatic difference in the lives of those who are trained, it gives tremendous satisfaction to the employees, who see that their hard work is truly making a difference in someone’s life.

Of course, not every organization has the time or ability to engage so actively with a nonprofit organization. For them, the holidays provide an ideal opportunity for HR professionals to lead their company’s participation in drives to collect toys, food, and other things for needy people. This provides both needed items for families at the holiday time as well as a team-building effort for those who participate. It is also a great pleasure to see children’s faces when they get a toy, game, or book.

The bottom line

Today, the definition of philanthropy is about more than making a donation to a good cause. It has expanded to building strong relationships with the community and the employee population, and HR plays a significant role in making it happen.


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known as an expert in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted to a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Mitchell is a graduate of North Park University in Chicago, with a degree in History and Political Science. Contact Mitchell by email.

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