Sigh. The holiday season is upon us. I don’t want to seem Grinch-like, because it’s a wonderful time to reflect on things for which we are thankful, and shines a light on the acts of so many kind and generous people in our community.
Amid the shopping and festivities, the holiday season helps everyone remember the less fortunate. For the organization I lead FACETS, which opens doors for people in need, our appeals are perhaps heard more easily than during the other seasons. This time of year, our nonprofit takes the opportunity to tell our story and the story of those we serve — children, families and individuals of all faiths and walks of life who have no fixed address and who need food and personal toiletries in addition to seasonal gifts.
Because of the extraordinary generosity in our own Whoville, the holidays are a time when we are flush with presents for people who are trapped in the cycle of poverty. But just a few months ago, our pantry was almost bare, reminding us that the needs of struggling citizens continue year-round. As Cindy Lou Who teaches all of us, generosity and the holiday spirit are not tied to gifts or even a specific time of year. Giving is reflected in our actions and sense of community.
Does this happen in our own organization? Do we have seasons of the year when we give our employees so much and then forget about their needs year-round? As leaders do we only practice certain traits when we think they are needed the most, like during a crisis? Forgetting that the gifts of transformational leadership are not seasonal.
As a nonprofit leader I often have the privilege of seeing how year-round giving of gifts works well and benefits all. We often get dubbed as charities with our hand always out. The reality is we are organizations deeply rooted in the community that not only help people in need, but people who have a desire to give their gifts to help others.
So let me suggest ways we can give gifts throughout the year through time, talent and treasure; while developing our employees and the community. I’ve attended a lot of workshops on Corporate Social Responsibility and the overarching theme has been in order to recruit and retain employees organizations must offer a comprehensive philanthropic and volunteer program.
- Give the gift of paid time off for employees to volunteer individually or as group. Volunteering can be a great team building activity and can develop or hone skills that will benefit the nonprofit and your organization.
- Train and encourage employees to serve on nonprofit boards. The skills needed to serve on a board often are the skills employers are looking for in leaders. Resource and organizational development, communication, and financial management just to name a few. Why not create a unique program or partner with your local volunteer center to create a win-win for your community.
- Don’t limit philanthropy to a season and encourage a program that allows employees to choose areas where they want the company to focus their philanthropy and volunteerism. Employees will be empowered and organizations will continue to give their staff critical skills in decision- making and leadership.
- But don’t be afraid to make corporate social responsibility about philanthropy and doing what is right for your business. How can you train and educate the next generation of employees for your business or reach a new market of customers through giving back?
As I face the season, it’s time for me to revel in the community’s generosity and harness their real zeal to make a difference not just for their business, but for the surrounding community all year. After the frenzy of holiday philanthropy/volunteerism dies down, there is still work to be done to develop current leaders and the next generation of leaders. Most importantly, we can all remind ourselves that: “Christmas doesn’t come from a store … maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little more!” Like giving the gift of our talent and time to help others and learn about ourselves. Happy holidays — and thank you, Mr. Grinch.
This post was written by Amanda Andere. Amanda serves as Executive Director of FACETS, an organization dedicated to responding to the diverse and multiple needs of homeless and people who were living in poverty in Fairfax County, Virginia. Follow Amanda on Twitter at @amandaandere and follow FACETS on Twitter @facetscares or like FACETS on Facebook.