When I was growing up, a job was somewhere you went from 8am to 5pm every day.  The idea was to show up, do your work and go home.  There was rarely any crossover from what was going on at home versus what was going on at work.  Similarly, my first few employers didn’t care much about my personal life or how well I connected with my fellow employees.

My how times have changed. Many recent studies show people want to work somewhere that is making a difference.  As the employer, I’m actively working to create a culture of service. I look for ways to both positively grow my people while at work, and to build a more robust life, when they step outside the office doors.

Many times, when we consider helping our employees to be unified, we think only within the context of the 8 – 5 business. In my experience, I have found that thinking about this from a holistic position allows the greatest expansion and unification among employees.

What if, by helping your employees look outside of themselves, you not only created an opportunity to bring everyone together, but end up creating more unity than you’ve ever imagined? My journey to finding this key was a surprising one.  The greatest source of unity for my company came in the form of generosity.

On this journey we learned generosity is “caught” more easily than it’s taught. Over the last year, I’ve worked to bring a spirit of generosity into our company culture. In doing so, we created an environment that not only unifies, but unleashed a personal journey of generosity inside of the employees.

The major shift inside my business occurred when we looked at creating an “employee giving fund”, allowing our employees to give alongside us. There were three distinct things about this fund that made it work.

First, you must begin. We partnered with a community foundation to help us do this. When you open your fund, you need to determine how you’re going to put money into the fund.

I was challenged by a company out of Lubbock, Texas, Betenbough Homes. They introduced the idea of looking at my business and praying for God to reveal how he would have us give.  In Genesis it talks about giving from the first of your increase and as I prayed, I was convicted that I should do the same.

Today we put 10% our gross first year profits into our employee giving fund on a monthly basis. This number may not be your number; however, I encourage you to take time to pray about where this money should come from.   This is not designed to be legalistic and understand your number may change as you grow and learn.  I encourage you to start, no matter where that number is.

Second, set the giving values and guidelines of the fund. When we began, we quickly realized our employees had a lot of different ideas and places where they might want to consider giving the money.

We didn’t necessarily agree with all their ideas and realized we needed to take a step back. [My wife, Angel and I oversee the fund from an administrative standpoint.] We needed to have a discussion around what it is we wanted to support and what things were most meaningful to us.

We set guidelines around what this fund was designed to support. I encourage you to spend time thinking about what things are most important to you, so you can help set some guidelines for your employees.

At Paradiem, our fund is specifically targeted to making a difference in the lives of families and children.  This does two powerful things.  One, it helps the employees understand why we might not choose to support an animal shelter, or a cancer walk.  Two, it gives me permission to turn down solicitations from random fundraisers around the community.  My new favorite phrase is, “All of our giving is done from our employee giving fund, you are welcome to submit your idea to them and they can vote on it.”

Third, empower your employees to give the funds away. At Paradiem, our giving meetings take place on a monthly basis. I personally don’t sit in on any of those meetings.  I want the employees to feel empowered. I don’t want to have any undue influence over where they might choose to give.

My wife, Angel, facilitates those meetings. Angel is responsible for running the meetings and helping the employees pray over where they want to give., However, she doesn’t make the final decisions on giving, if the giving is within our guidelines. We leave the decision up to our employees and where they feel called to give.

They get together for about an hour, bring ideas they’ve seen, spend time praying over those, and then vote on where the monies should go. Then, Angel helps them get the money distributed. It’s been amazing to watch this in action. What has amazed me more than anything, is witnessing the generosity of my employees expand as our own generosity has expanded.

This giving fund has given Angel and me an opportunity to expand our giving in a way that we never expected. I get to hear from my employees about their experience partnering alongside our giving. What’s been even more fun is hearing the stories of where our employees have chosen to give with their own money.  Many of our employees have told me stories of how the company’s generosity has challenged them to not only look for opportunities to give, but to put their money where their heart is.

One thing I know for sure is our employees look forward to the monthly giving meeting. Yes, it’s an hour out of the day, but allowing them to spend time focusing on something outside of the business that makes a difference, energizes them to be more committed to serving with excellence inside the business.

There are many ways to build unity inside of a company, but consider the possibility that the breakthrough you are seeking may be sitting on the other side of increased generosity.

At Paradiem, our Business Planning group has helped several businesses consider how to build a giving fund into their business.  Everyone will certainly choose to do this differently, but if there’s any way that we can help you think outside the box or answer any questions, let us know.  In addition, if you would like to find out if your business is a candidate to partner with Paradiem, give us a call at (985) 727-0770 or email [email protected].