“The pandemic changed how we think about work and many workers are no longer satisfied with jobs that only offer a paycheck. An ingrained culture of service in a company gives employees something deeper to connect to.”

John McCarten/NYC Council

A box of groceries at a food distribution event.

Corporate social responsibility shouldn’t feel like homework or exist only in the holiday season. Now, as we tend to find our aspirational New Year’s resolutions fading away, is the perfect time for New York’s businesses and nonprofits to recommit to partnerships that engage whole companies from the top down. 

New Yorkers are still in need and people are putting more trust than ever in businesses over other institutions to tackle today’s biggest global issues. As two leaders who participated in such a collaboration, we have reflected on how organizations like ours can continue to make meaningful change together. River Capital Group has an existing donor relationship with nonprofit A Chance In Life, and recently the firm’s employees were invited to volunteer at a food distribution event at the organization’s recently-opened Staten Island site. It was rewarding for volunteers to interact with local families and see their donations’ impact with their own eyes. It reminded us of the importance of partnerships that engage businesses at every level.

The so-called “Great Resignation” has been a hot topic for months. The pandemic changed how we think about work and many workers are no longer satisfied with jobs that only offer a paycheck. An ingrained culture of service in a company gives employees something deeper to connect to. It builds morale and even boosts retention. One survey found that 90 percent of employees who work at companies with a strong commitment to impact report that they feel more inspired, motivated and loyal. This must be a part of the road to New York’s economic recovery.

When volunteering is woven into a company’s DNA and opportunities are regularly made available, people will naturally participate. After deciding to volunteer with A Chance In Life, a number of River Capital employees expressed such positive feedback that many staff members who hadn’t attended wished they had been there and expressed that they were eager to join next time. 

Monetary corporate donations are important to nonprofits, but there is so much more to be gained by both parties with relationships that go deeper. When someone volunteers at a food pantry, for instance, they check their title at the door. Everyone is a member of a team that has come together with the shared goal to serve their community. Staff get to connect with a larger cause and to each other. And it is a chance for nonprofits to benefit from extra hands and a larger network. 

In-person volunteering isn’t the only way to engage employees in social impact. Donation drives in the form of friendly competitions can get people fired up while they make a difference. For instance, challenging each department to donate the most toys for a toy drive gets employees working as a team and excited to give back. Gamification like this can increase employee engagement by 60 percent.

“Corporate social responsibility” can easily become a public relations buzzword. It isn’t usually hard to spot the businesses that are driven more by optics than a true desire to give back. The most successful relationships between the corporate and nonprofit worlds are rooted in genuine connections. Corporate volunteer opportunities like City Parks Foundation’s clean-up events are successful because they offer a way for employees to give back in their own backyards. Allowing employees to nominate beneficiary organizations is another way to build a corporate impact program based on authentic, shared values. When the connection is strong and all parties are invested, the relationships last longer and can make more of a difference. 

Workplaces are communities in their own right. Monetary donations that come from a corporate checkbook are impactful, but we can accomplish so much more when we invite the whole community to take part. Nonprofit leaders should identify opportunities for corporate partners’ employees to contribute to their missions and business leaders must see service as a core part of their culture.  With these partnerships, nonprofits and businesses can make the world a better place.

Gabriele Delmonaco is the president and executive director of A Chance In Life, a global nonprofit that uses a Positive Youth Development approach to empower young people and provide shelter, education and leadership. Vincent Puma is the CEO of River Capital Group, a hybrid family office/private equity show headquartered in New York City with offices across the United States. With an active investment portfolio of private investments, they partner with entrepreneurs to grow businesses from startup to maturity.

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