Avalaunch Gives Back to the Community
Several years ago, my uncle and I were on a roadtrip to Las Vegas for the Mountain West Conference Basketball Tournament. We spoke about many things—our favorite movies, family gossip, who we thought would win the tournament, and countless things I can’t remember—but I will never forget the conversation we had after he told me he was running for city council.
My immediate reaction to this news was, “Why would you do that to yourself? Aren’t you busy enough? Aren’t there other ways you could spend your time?” So I asked him, “What in the world are you doing that for?” His response was simple: “I learned years ago that it is important to give back. Life has been good to me and I always try to give back to my community.”
This conversation took place at an interesting time in my life. I was transitioning from recent law school graduate with a startup company to semi-established professional with a budding company. I realized my circumstances were changing and I wondered if I should be doing more to help others.
Within a few months of our conversation, I was presented with an opportunity to help co-found SLCSEM.org, a nonprofit marketing association that provides continuing education opportunities to the Utah digital marketing community. I was a licensed attorney (who coincidentally had never practiced law) so the other founders thought I could handle all the legalities associated with starting a nonprofit. Because I really had no idea what I was doing, it was a lot of work—but my uncle’s words were still ringing in my ears. I realized that this was an opportunity for me to give back to a community that had done a lot for me personally. The investment of time was well worth it, as SLCSEM.org has since grown to become Utah’s largest marketing association and has helped thousands of Utah marketers become better at what they do to further their careers.
In the fast-paced world of “agency life” we often plow through projects, run to meetings, stress over deadlines, and hope that all the behind-the-scenes efforts will somehow be impactful enough to be recognized by our clients. But as I’ve worked with hundreds of employees over the years, I’ve really come to realize that my uncle was right. Almost all of us long for a sense of purpose that reaches far beyond our work contributions.
My partners and I decided to try and provide some of these more meaningful opportunities to our employees through a company initiative we call Avalaunch Gives Back. Since 2012, Avalaunch Gives Back has provided many opportunities to use our employees’ altruistic attitudes and behaviors. With this platform, we’ve been able to do a lot of good for some of our favorite organizations like NEADS, Water For Life, Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors (TAPS), Wasatch Community Gardens, several scholarships, and many other worthy causes.
#avalaunchgivesback Wall in Avalaunch Media corporate office
How Do You Give Back?
In the early days, we asked “how do you build a corporate culture dedicated to lending a helping hand?” It’s easy to say that it starts from the top, but there are many more actionable steps other than CEO-mandated service days.
Step one: Hire the right people. It may seem obvious; however, the hiring process is often tedious and long. The loss of production and the costs associated with taking a prolonged amount of time to find the “it” person weigh heavily on upper management. Missing this step can result in a group of individuals that are self-serving, without the desire to contribute beyond personal work duties.
*Charitable employees at Avalaunch
Step two: Make it a part of the mission. Establishing a written commitment to service ensures follow-through. Treat your service project like your brand: give it a name, a logo. The Avalaunch Gives Back program even has its own feature wall within our building.
Step three: Designate a team. At Avalaunch, we established a committee to help plan and orchestrate our charitable efforts. Just like the collaboration behind our marketing campaigns, we combined creativity and knowledge to fuel our service efforts.
Step four: Find a focus. People are more likely to contribute when they have a connection to the cause. Let your employees voice their opinions on service projects—many will already have nonprofits they support. Every year each employee gets to submit a nonprofit they believe is worth the Avalaunch touch. In 2017, the executive team committed to one nonprofit initiative per quarter. Each Avalaunch employee presented their nonprofit of choice, and a vote was taken to select the top four service projects.
A Diversified Plan
Many organizations are in need of monetary contributions as well as man hours. Give your company the opportunity to do both. Service is a great way to bring your team together while getting to know your colleagues outside the confined office walls. Avalaunch’s participation this year in the Wasatch Community Gardens served that mission.
*Avalaunch Media employees volunteer at a local community garden
Make It Fun!
For our food bank initiative, the Avalaunch culture club decided to get creative with their push to encourage participation. It’s easy to ask people to donate non-perishable items, but we took it a step further. Avalaunch divided the office into two teams of 15. The teams competed to see who could bring in the most pounds of food. The result: Over 1,400 lbs of non-perishable items were donated to Tabitha’s Way Local Food Pantry, and that winning team was rewarded with a movie day. WIN-WIN!
- Give to a cause your employees care about. If your workforce is primarily made up of millennials (like ours is), you need to realize that they are a very cause-driven bunch. Corporate responsibility initiatives do play a part in recruiting and retention.
- Spotlight the good your employees do on their own time. This reinforces the cultural value and provides some authenticity. For example, a few weeks ago one of our employees went to Puerto Rico to help distribute water filters to the people there. We dedicated half of a company meeting for him to show pictures from his trip and share many inspiring stories around the people he helped. Then one of our account managers decided she wanted to help her children gather blankets for the homeless and asked her teammates for help. These experiences get all of us excited for our next Avalaunch Gives Back initiative.
- Don’t underestimate your company’s potential. I’ve always been inspired by the story behind one of the UK’s fastest-selling singles, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” This amazing charity single was organized by Bob Geldof, the lead singer of The Boomtown Rats, who was inspired after watching a BBC documentary on famine in Ethiopia. Thirty-three years later the song has raised more than £150 million for famine relief.
There’s no shortage of ways your company can give back to your community, whether by donating time, money, canned food, or business services. What’s important is that you find a cause that resonates with your employees, encouraging them to participate and grow professionally and personally. My experience with Avalaunch Gives Back has proven to me just how important corporate giving is, and I invite any and all companies to find a way to give back too.