Corporate Community Involvement Opportunities are Right in Your Own Backyard

By: Laura Lofthouse, Senior Vice President, Media Delivery Team, Valassis
Published Monday, Jan 30, 2017

Corporate Community Involvement Opportunities are Right in Your Own Backyard

Corporate community involvement is on the rise.  For some, this is a key determinant in choosing to work for, or stay with, an employer. Not only is there business value in supporting a societal cause, but also a positive impact on employee attitudes. According to a University of Bath study, employees of companies with community outreach initiatives are more proud of and committed to their employers. Knowing these things, how do companies best go about determining which opportunities are a good fit for corporate support?

Start Here

We all have passions, projects, and causes we value. Identify an opportunity that supports your corporate culture, your products or your workforce. There are no bad choices, but there may be options that are a better fit for your company. Ask these key questions:

  • What is the impact to the community and how will it aid those influenced by your actions?
  • What is the impact to your company?  How will it support business value?  How might it benefit your employees?  What are the short and potential long-term effects?
  • Should the focus be monetary donations, the gift of time, or a combination of both? 
Our Journey

This past year, as we considered these questions, we discovered an opportunity in our own backyard. Comprised of over 30 Catholic high schools in major cities across the United States, the Cristo Rey Network integrates a four-year college preparatory academic program with professional work experience through a work-study program for students from economically disadvantaged families.

By partnering with local businesses, Cristo Rey helps create work-study programs to raise funds for student tuition and foster skills and attitudes important in the workplace. The objective of these partnerships is to create a successful internship program that benefits both students and businesses by enabling students to gain insight into professional organizations where they can grow and develop skills to be successful in both school and their future careers.

The Community Benefit

One day each week instead of attending school, a student joins their business sponsor on-site for a professional work day. During a day at the office, businesses are encouraged to mentor and teach students skills and lessons they would not learn in a classroom. Examples of this include learning how to answer the phone, write an email, dress for the job, and create a positive first impression.

Students and their business mentors build strong relationships over the course of the program that may continue beyond the program’s end date. They also receive coaching from their mentors along with feedback to promote growth and development. Training is provided so students will gain exposure to the business environment and culture and are even able to meet with employees who attended colleges that may be of interest to the students upon graduation.

After participating in the work-study program, students finish high school with a full resume of experiences. The skills and knowledge they gain from working in four different professional settings during high school sets them apart from their college peers and ultimately positions them for success. Some who complete this program are the first in their family to graduate from high school and head to college, thanks to the Cristo Rey Network and their business sponsors.

The Leadership Benefit

Because our team has the flexibility to create the work structure for participating students, students can be placed in any area of our business that may need an extra hand, helping full-time associates dedicate more of their time to higher-level tasks. Students are encouraged to attend meetings, job shadow associates from various departments, join conference calls, participate in clubs and organizations and assist teammates.

The program also provides a mentorship opportunity for our employees who are interested in developing and enhancing their leadership skills. Employees act as coaches for the students and learn how to provide training and guidance in a focused learning environment. As students interact with others in the company, commitment to the program grows.

Don’t Wait

Programs such as Cristo Rey are important for businesses, helping them actively increase employee engagement, morale and teamwork. Corporate community involvement creates a sense of pride, providing both external and internal benefits that can contribute to your company’s success today and into the future. 

So, open your door and look in your backyard. We encourage you to see what’s out there today.