Getting started with giving back: The smart way into corporate social responsibility

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Published on Apr. 29, 2016
Getting started with giving back: The smart way into corporate social responsibility

Whether your company’s just getting started or it’s been around for decades, it’s always nice to give back to the community.

While at its core, giving back (or “giving first”) is just the right thing to do, there’s a growing trend of making it a formal part of your company. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts can range from an annual day of giving to making it someone’s entire job to coordinate a formal program. For tech companies of all sizes, building a CSR practice can benefit not only its recipients but the company as well.

Being a good corporate citizen is an increasingly common value among employees, said Alex West, the Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for

. “Community investment will help with attracting talent, increasing employee engagement and therefore retention.”

Arrow regularly selects community initiatives to support through their CSR program — applicants are selected based on how well they fit with Arrow’s 10 “Categories of Engagement,” which include innovation, social impact and executive support.

“I try to only work with organizations that align with what we’re doing,” said West. “It’s not a typical granting system through a foundation — we do it in our own, innovative way.”

Arrow’s CSR program is designed to support and extend the company’s brand, which focuses on empowering the next generation of innovators and follows their slogan of “Five Years Out.”

One of Arrow’s CSR partners is Junior Achievement Business Week, a program that teaches students business, marketing and startup skills. “It pulls a lot of participants from low-income households or disadvantaged backgrounds who normally wouldn’t be exposed to this sort of thing,” said Meghan McDonald, Arrow’s PR & Media Relations Manager.


Arrow recently held a “bowl-a-thon” event that raised $25,000. That's enough to send 70 “Arrow Scholars” to JA Business Week this summer, where they’ll live on the Johnson and Wales University campus, taking workshops and creating mock businesses of their own.

Arrow had 218 employees participate in the event — they were hoping for 100. West attributed the event’s success to employees feeling it aligned with the company’s mission and vision. And enthusiastic support from Kevin Manzo, Arrow’s VP of Finance (and board member for Junior Achievement’s local chapter) didn’t hurt, either. “He really led that charge,” said West. “A personal message coming from leadership means a lot.”

People who want to start a community investment program at their company should think about how to make a business case for it — because ultimately, they’ll need buy-in from leadership. “Pick what’s most important to you and pick what relates back to your company’s mission,” West said.

Denver-based commercial real estate tech company

is doing just that. Though community engagement has always been a part of what they do — they’ve volunteered in soup kitchens and food banks — they recently decided to move forward with a focus on something related to their industry.

In two weeks, members from Apto’s team will be working with Habitat for Humanity to build a house in northeast Denver. Tim Warson, Apto’s Corporate Recruiter, said they chose Habitat for Humanity because it’s tied to real estate. “In our company, there are a lot of people who are pretty handy — our CTO is a woodworker — so we wanted to take advantage of that, too,” he said.

While Apto doesn’t have a formal CSR program, community engagement ties in directly with the company’s values. “We’re people-focused, so we always want to improve the lives of the people around us,” said Warson. “We also value finding balance, so we want to balance work, life and giving back. And our main core value is ‘be remarkable’ — so if you’re going to do something, do it really well.”

He said the best way to evaluate whether a community engagement effort will be worth it is to determine whether it will help the company’s employees grow, help them better serve their clients, and better serve the community as a whole.

Members of Apto’s team will have a paid day off to work on the Habitat project. Warson said it wasn’t hard to get internal buy-in, and the team’s excitement builds as they gear up for the build day. “It feels less like you’re just serving someone for a day and you’re done,” he said. “We have a tangible takeaway from it. We’re giving someone a home, and people are excited about that.”


What does your company do to give back to the community? Email us your story or share a photo on Instagram with #techlovesCO.

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