California-based Odyssey Teams, which has five full-time employees and about 40 contractors, helps corporate employees engage in team-building exercises to construct prosthetic hands and kids’ bikes to donate to those in need. More than 150,000 bikes and about 8,000 prosthetic hands made by companies that hire Odyssey to conduct the team-building activities have been donated to people in need. The prosthetics have been sent to people in 61 countries, including Kenya, Vietnam, Colombia and Zimbabwe. Odyssey Teams also works with cleft palate and other prosthetic limb groups, among others.
Photo: Child with box holding his new prosthetic hand, credit Odyssey Teams
“We’ve always been real avid philanthropists, sort of on the side, then we found a way to bring that into our company and have our participants build something real instead of the metaphorical world,” said Lain Hensley, co-founder and chief operating officer of Odyssey Teams.
Photo: Man shows off his new prosthetic hand, credit Odyssey Teams
Jonah and Ellen Zimiles say they started [words] bookstore in Maplewood, NJ, three years ago to ensure the community had a literary hub and to offer individuals with autism an opportunity to participate fully in the community.
Photo: Local author Hallie Durand at a children's book reading at [words], photo credit [words] Bookstore
[words] employs 14 "typical" part-time workers and several people with autism, some on the payroll and some participating through work-school programs. Over 40 young adults with special needs have worked at the store, which also sponsors community activities for other special-needs families. Jonah's advice to small businesses is to leverage their competitive advantage by focusing their efforts on issues about which the owner and employees are most passionate and that resonate in their community.
Photo: The Zimiles’ son Daniel at a free cooking program for special needs kids at [words], photo credit [words] Bookstore
Pro Martial Arts karate studio franchise, based in Pennsylvania, offers kids and adults skills such as discipline, respect, manners and good attitude. PMA, which has 10 employees and 15 franchisees, made a commitment to addressing two 21st century problems that all children face: bullying and predators. Educating students on dealing with bullying and steering clear of the predators that inhabit both the real and cyber worlds are critical to the PMA program, so they are woven into all levels of the PMA program. PMA hosts free anti-bullying seminars in local schools as well as PMA studios across the country.
Photo: PMA student practices some of his anti-bullying defense techniques, photo credit Pro Martial Arts, staff photographer
The Big Ass Fan Company in Lexington, KY, supports organizations important to their customers and employees. The company and its 230 employees contribute financial, product and volunteer support to organizations such as the Lexington Living Arts and Science Center, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, Lexington Firefighter's Toy Drive, Celiac Disease Foundation and college scholarships. It also gives back in green ways. Big Ass Fan’s 46,000-ft2 LEED Gold Research and Development lab in Lexington allows it to optimize numerous energy saving elements, which contribute to the company’s conservation efforts. The lab was designed to use 35% less energy and 58% less water and, during construction, 51% less waste went to the landfill, and 9% fewer materials were used to build. This building uses less energy per year to operate than a vacant warehouse.
Photo: Big Ass Fan Company’s R&D lab and mascot Fanny with toys employees purchased for the 2011 Lexington Firefighters Toy Drive. Photo credit, Big Ass Fan Company
This online magazine publishing company Nxtbook Media has been ranked best places to work in Pennsylvania in 2011 and 2008, and ranked third in 2008 and 2009. Part of the appeal is the degree to which the company, which has 50 employees, gets involved. It has conducted community blood drives, participated in walks to end Alzheimer’s, and gives to groups such as the United Way. It’s DUO (Do Unto Others) Committee, made up of employees, puts together a list of charitable events and causes every year; any employee who donates two hours to a cause on the list gets a “birthday holiday.” A sabbatical program offers two weeks off for employees with five years on the job, and one month for those with the company for 10+ years, during which they need to spend a certain percentage of time volunteering with a group of their choice. “They enjoy both aspects - they enjoy earning the time off but they also have to come back and report to the community where they volunteered, what that experience was like. It really helps create that culture of participation,” said Marketing Director Marcus Grimm.
Photo: Nxtbook Media's Derik Fife rides past Nxtbook employees in the annual United Way Tricycle Race; CEO Michael Biggerstaff, furthest right. Photo credit, Terri Shadle
Destination Hotels & Resorts is a large, billion-dollar company that includes CSR and giving back in its guiding principles, but it also helps small businesses give back in manageable ways. Small businesses that hold meetings or other corporate events on DH&R properties are offered incentives to engage in giving back, such as encouraging donations made based on the size of their meeting to a charity of their choice. DH&R also connects small businesses with organizations such as Odyssey Teams or similar companies that facilitate team-building exercises that boost employee morale and give back in some way. “They’ve taken it and allowed it to morph into more than just the team building activity of having a bocce ball tournament,” said Chris Kenney, regional vice president of sales and marketing for the DH&R Western region.
While engaging in corporate social responsibility may not be a top priority for many companies, particularly small ones, research shows that businesses may receive external benefits from engaging in social good - such as increased purchasing behavior, higher customer satisfaction and higher employee retention, among others. Here are six U.S. small businesses putting their best corporate foot forward to give back to the community.