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Corporate stewardship: It’s a win-win situation

Jeffrey R. DeYoung

Full disclosure – I’m a CPA, and I care about numbers. I care about helping my clients enhance their bottom line, be more profitable and provide continued employment. I also care deeply about this Twin Cities community where I’ve lived for more than 30 years.

Given these things, it’s no surprise that when I’m asked whether corporate stewardship and volunteering are good for a company’s bottom line, my answer is a resounding “Yes!” More cynical business colleagues ask how companies can afford to focus on stewardship, given limited financial and human resources.

If you’re among those not able to give a resounding “yes” to the question of whether corporate stewardship and volunteering can contribute to the bottom line, consider these three reasons I believe it’s good for business:

Increased employee engagement and retention. Much has been written about the 86 million younger workers who want to work for a company whose values align with their own; however, the same can really be said of all generations. This desire for connection – for wanting to feel engaged not just in the workplace but with a company’s community activities and contributions, isn’t unique to younger workers. Companies with active stewardship programs have found ways to tap into this desire, giving employees more connection to their workplace. Greater connection translates to greater engagement, which leads to higher retention and lower recruiting and training costs, which of course, contribute to an enhanced bottom line.

Strengthening your brand – How much is a strong brand worth? Behemoth brands like Coca-Cola and Nike know that answer. But a strong brand is a valuable financial asset for smaller companies, as well. Volunteerism – in the form of participation on community, not-for-profit and business boards and employee involvement in schools, churches and not-for-profits – can send customers a strong message about a company and its values. By respectfully telling the story of your company’s stewardship and community efforts, you are telling potential customers and employees about your values, which can lead to increased revenue.

This summer, Baker Tilly held our firm’s first-ever firmwide Stewardship Day. More than 1,300 professionals donated more than 7,000 hours to help hunger-relief organizations across the country. Did closing the firm to allow participation in Stewardship Day impact our sales that day? Of course it did. Did the benefits received from demonstrating our core value of stewardship to more than 40 not-for-profits help our bottom line? Without a doubt.

Strategic alignment – Stewardship allows a company to align its business with the role it wants to play in the local community. Think of the web design company that donates a portion of their time to helping not-for-profits design better websites. Or the construction company that donates materials and time to Habitat for Humanity builds. Or the law firm that provides pro-bono legal advice to those in need. Each of these examples showcases companies doing what they do best to help the community. It’s not uncommon for personal relationships built during these volunteer efforts to lead to business relationships. That’s not the reason to do the volunteer work – but it’s a proven benefit that can enhance your company’s bottom line. 

Like anything else, embracing the value of and commitment to stewardship starts with management and ownership. Senior level commitment is the foundation for any successful stewardship effort. I’m fortunate to be a partner in an accounting firm that has identified stewardship as one of its three core values. As a firm, we strongly believe in the need to invest for the future with the intent of leaving everything better. Our list of firmwide and Minnesota community involvement is long and one of which I’m extremely proud.

Have I convinced you that doing good is also good for your business? If so, here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. Get the leadership team on board. If they’re not, your chances of success will be diminished.
  2. Find employee champions who can manage your community outreach and get their peers excited about it.
  3. Decide how you will contribute – time, money, materials – how much and to which organization(s).
  4. Consider starting small with things such as a food or school supply drive and grow from there.
  5. Celebrate your efforts with your employees!

As we head into this holiday season, let’s work together as a full business community to enhance the lives of those in need and make the Twin Cities an even better place to live. Not only will it strengthen your heart, it will strengthen your business too.

Jeffrey R. DeYoung has been office managing partner of accounting and advisory firm Baker Tilly’s Minneapolis office since 2005. He is also past board chair of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and currently serves on the Board of St. Paul’s Outreach and the Advisory Board of the University of St. Thomas Catholic Studies program.

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