Ryan LaVangie

“Giving back to the community” – it’s a phrase that can take the tone of cliché in the absence of a genuine desire and effort to support the communities where we are headquartered and/or conduct business.

It’s the rare company that has not donated financially toward a community project, but the positive impact a local business can make by contributing in other ways can extend far beyond the occasional novelty check.

Follow Your Employees’ Passions

Private sector companies in particular have the opportunity to contribute in numerous manners without having to cut through the bureaucratic “red tape” that public entities can become tangled in. But keep in mind that company volunteer programs should align with projects where employees’ skill, knowledge and passion can have the maximum impact.

Construction companies, as example, can contribute in a large way to programs like Habitat for Humanity by lending both their industry expertise and a literal helping hand. In fact, Team Acella recently joined a regional Habitat for Humanity for a rewarding day of service by participating in a build program where volunteers come together to support safe, affordable homes for economically disadvantaged families. This was an opportunity for our construction company to make a real difference.

Here at Acella, we have also formed a partnership with a local mountain biking group, the Wompatuck Warriors High School Mountain Bike Club. Following his own passion, our company president serves as assistant coach, and the company sponsors the group and provides a trailer to transport race day supplies, bikes and spare equipment for events.

Other types of involvement that can have true meaning include offering a class at the local high school or adult education program. Take things several steps further by developing a company intern program, the ultimate win-win proposition. Not only will you provide meaningful on-the-job training for one or more individuals, but your company will benefit from the extra help.

Sponsoring charitable sports and other events both financially and on-site is yet another way to show community spirit, as is serving on a town board. Those in the construction industry, for instance, might consider offering to sit on your local planning board or zoning board of appeals, or volunteering to serve on nonprofit boards.

Setting up a company scholarship at the local high school can be the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. Establishing a fund to help low-income college students with the cost of their education is also a good option.

Build Community Good into Your Business Model

Another “thinking outside the box” way of giving back is through an annual grant stipend where employees are permitted a set dollar amount to donate to a charity or nonprofit of their choice.  This is a way to support any number of organizations while at the same time allowing employees to give thought to the type of charity that means the most to them. Giving employees one day each quarter on company time to volunteer with a nonprofit of their choosing is a similar option that can speak volumes about your business’ commitment to doing good.

Although the term “pro bono” is most often associated with attorneys, any private sector company can lend their talents to a nonprofit. These organizations run on shoestring budgets and typically can’t afford to pay for employees that have the proper skill set. Financial institutions, for example, might initiate a program where employees give a set number of hours a month to a non-profit to conduct fiscal functions.

We pride ourselves at Acella for the relationships we have built with the communities we serve, so much so that our motto is “building relationships one project at a time.” We build better when we are close, connected and engaged with clients and communities; we are well aware of the importance of working on projects that significantly contribute to the towns and cities we serve throughout the South Shore, greater Boston and New England. Cases in point include construction projects for non-profit cultural organizations, a Congregational church and a YMCA.

There’s a reason for the phrase “running a business.” It often feels as if we are going at breakneck speed trying to keep up with the competition, with technology and with day-to-day operational challenges. But in our quest to be successful and profitable, companies in the private sector shouldn’t overlook success and profit of the non-monetary kind – by incorporating community good into their business model.

Ryan LaVangie is vice president of sales and marketing at Acella Construction.

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