by Stacey Chiocchio, Corporate Social Responsibility Project Manager at Hypertherm

Every year all associates at our company participate in an engagement survey that helps us understand where our opportunities and hypertherm_employee_volunteers_0.jpgaccomplishments are. For the last several years the strongest positive driver of engagement has been our organization’s focus on corporate social responsibility principles, specifically our commitment to our communities and the environment. Our volunteering benefit is the cornerstone to our community engagement and therefore a major driver for helping us develop a positive culture at Hypertherm. 

Our story is a simple one, ask associates where they want to volunteer and help connect them to those volunteer opportunities.  Our model is built on personal choice, associates decide where and how they want to give back.  Some choose to stay within their skill sets and participate in skills based volunteering i.e., our recruiting team helping high school students with resumes and mock interviewing or our engineers participating in Lego competitions as team coaches or judges.  But sometimes associates want to do anything but the work they do all the time for Hypertherm and so they may participate in trail clearing projects, roof repair for a low income homeowner, or stocking shelves at a food pantry.

Personal choice is the beauty of our program and how we have achieved almost 80% volunteer participation through November 2014. Every associate at Hypertherm is given 24 hours of paid volunteer time per year. This year 1,065 associates have volunteered for a total of 15,800 hours, an average of almost 15 hours per volunteer.

Associates become passionate about an organization and often volunteer above and beyond that time on their own.  This year we started a Hypertherm Community Hero Award to reward that above and beyond behavior. 

hypertherm_enfield_conservation_080610_008_0.jpgIt has been remarkable to see how volunteering in groups has improved team relationships.  These groups could be made up of associates who generally work together in a given work day or they could be from various parts of the organization.  Leaders no longer pay for “team building” activities.  Leaders have learned that by scheduling a group Community Service Time project they will increase team communication, engagement, effectiveness and satisfaction.  Breaking down barriers and working together for a common cause naturally brings people together.  As these photos show, there is much comradery that builds when we volunteer in teams. 

Our volunteering has a shared impact on our associates, our communities, and our business. We see our associates build compassion for others and return to work with a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment. We see communities transformed by their collective generosity of spirit and prosper and thrive in sustained ways that can support our business.

If you would like to explore the opportunities for creating or expanding your volunteering efforts, email Michelle.  We will be holding a Volunteer Fair in early 2015 and inviting member businesses and employees to attend!

flooding_hampton_0_0.jpgby Roger Stephenson, Union of Concerned Scientists

Today scores of coastal communities in the United States are seeing more frequent tidal flooding. And as global warming drives sea levels higher over the next 15 to 30 years, flooding from high tides is expected to occur even more often and cause more disruption, particularly on the East Coast and, increasingly, on the Gulf Coast.

Encroaching Tides: How Sea Level Rise and Tidal Flooding Threaten U.S. East and Gulf Coast Communities over the Next 30 Years, a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, shows how coastal communities could be affected, and makes recommendations on how they can increase their resilience. Portsmouth is profiled on page 22. 

The analysis explores projected changes in tidal flooding under a mid-range scenario of sea level rise, and the implications for East and Gulf Coast communities in the absence of adaptive measures. Over the next 15 to 30 years, the frequency, extent, and duration of tidal flooding could increase substantially in many of the 52 locations we examined. By 2045, within the lifetime of a 30-year mortgage, many coastal communities are expected to see roughly one foot of sea level rise. As that occurs, one-third of the 52 locations in our analysis would start to face tidal flooding more than 180 times a year, on average. Nine locations can expect to see tidal flooding 240 times or more per year. While today this type of flooding is typically considered a nuisance, if it becomes chronic, its impact on local communities would grow. And with sea level rise, some tidal floods are also expected to become much more extensive. 

To prepare for these changes, local communities will have to take steps to upgrade built infrastructure, discourage new development in areas that flood more often, and carefully weigh the risks and benefits of adaptation measures. But local communities can't go it alone-coastal challenges are too great, the costs are too steep, and too many people are at risk. Instead, we need a coordinated, well-funded national response to our country's coastal vulnerability involving federal, state, and local collaboration. And while the near-term increase in sea level rise and tidal flood conditions outlined in this report may be locked-in, changes later this century and beyond are not fixed. We can avoid longer-term impacts by taking swift and strong measures to reduce our carbon pollution.

On September 12 the New Hampshire Coastal Risks and Hazards Commission released a report on sea level rise, storm surge and precipitation.  The commission requested the report from a Science and Technical Advisory Panel that it formed earlier in the year. The purpose was to ensure that commission members are aware of and using the best available and most relevant scientific and technical information to inform its recommendations to the Governor in 2016.

The report, “Sea-level Rise, Storm Surges, and Extreme Precipitation in Coastal New Hampshire: Analysis of Past and Projected Future Trends” summarizes the varying scientific information on the anticipated future coastal flood hazards attributed to sea level rise (SLR), storm surge, and increased precipitation.  The Panel’s report also includes advice on the planning parameters that the Commission should use in framing its recommendations. The conclusions reached by the Panel regarding future coastal flood hazards are consistent with the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment completed in 2013-2014.  The New Hampshire report is available here.

Michelle Veasey, NHBSR Executive Director


Creating Shared Value (CSV) seems like a very idealistic approach at first glance.  Is it realistic to think that a business can realize growth and people_puzzle.jpgopportunity while addressing societal needs?  There are several companies who think so.

Let’s take a step back – what does it mean to Create Shared Value anyway?  The term is commonly attributed to Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, authors of "Creating Shared Value: Redefining Capitalism and the Role of the Corporation in Society"1.  CSV recognizes the interdependence of a business’ sustainability with the health of its community and society at large.  In its purest sense, CSV builds innovative approaches to not only create profit and opportunity for a company, and in the process, address societal needs. 

Porter and Kramer identify three ways that companies can innovate and create shared value:  reimagine your market and product offerings, redefine productivity in your value chain, and/or “enable local cluster development” (e.g. supporting programs that meet the educational requirements of your business, affordable housing for your employees, supporting suppliers that pay their employees a fair wage, etc.)  A link to their article can be found below.

Triple Pundit recently published a great example of CSV in an article about the “Give Back Box”, a program created by the founder of, Monika Wiela.  She passed a homeless man on her way to work in Chicago holding a sign requesting a pair of shoes.  She was frustrated that she could only provide women’s shoes from her warehouse.  Wiela continued to search for ideas and was struck with the opportunity empty shipping boxes provided. 

What if customers could ship back boxes filled with charitable donations?  Give Back Box was born.  Now she, and include shipping labels addressed to secondhand charitable organizations in their product shipments.  (Anyone can ship donations in any retailer’s box by printing a shipping label at  With over 30 million tons of cardboard used every year, Give Back Box creates shared value, providing a great opportunity for reuse and addressing declining charitable donations of clothing and household items.

NHBSR’s Just One Thing stories have uncovered examples in New Hampshire too!

Tom Strickland wanted to find a way to help nonprofits in his community, but with a small company, he had to find a way to do it without undermining the productivity of his limited staff.  Sequoya Technologies Group created Sequoya Seeds, a program allowing paying customers to select a nonprofit in the Monadnock region to receive technical services equal to 5 percent of the customer’s bill.  The impact has been significant, for several Monadnock area nonprofits and Sequoya.  The nonprofits have been able to increase their technological capabilities and/or reduce operating expenses.  The program automatically sizes itself to the revenue stream, never outpacing capability and has resulted in new business for Sequoya.

Monadnock Paper Mill used to send 95%, or over 1,200 tons per year, of its short-paper fiber (a by-product of manufacturing) to the landfill.  Several years ago, through product substitution, MPM was able to change this by-product into a nutrient rich, safe material which is perfect for use as compost, soil amendment and animal bedding.  In 2006, a local farm lost all of its farmland to flooding and the cost of replacing the soil was prohibitive.  MPM’ s short-paper fiber met a local need and sheep are once again grazing on lush farmland.  Now, 100% of this by-product is reused to enhance farming throughout the state and MPM has reduced its landfill costs.

These are great examples of rethinking business processes to create shared value.  A need in the community is met with a creative business solution. 

Where could you leverage your business to create shared value?  Share your ideas below, submit your stories to our Just One Thing campaign or read the Just One Thing storyboard!

1 Creating Shared Value: Redefining Capitalism and the Role of the Corporation in Society by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer can be downloaded for free from the Shared Value Initiative.

By Kristin Hanczor, Sustainability Intern, and Amy Seif Hattan, Corporate Sustainability Officer, Thornton Tomasetti

communication.jpgIn March of 2013, Thornton Tomasetti released its inaugural sustainability report. The report provided an opportunity to update our employees on the progress we made towards our corporate sustainability goals. It also improved our ability to communicate with external audiences interested in our business practices. Previously we had published an abbreviated report within the pages of our annual report; a comprehensive, stand-alone sustainability report brought attention to the information and allowed us to share it in compelling way.

Click here to view Thornton Tomasetti’s 2013 Sustainability Report.


Since its launch, the report has been successful in sparking interest. Internally, employees have asked how to get more involved, and the report has increased executive buy-in by reflecting back upon our progress and goals in a way that inspires. Externally, it has piqued the interest of clients and potential partners, especially those looking to learn more about sustainable business practices and building designs. We also received a request from a trade publication to contribute a piece about our sustainability commitments.


Corporate sustainability reporting has become commonplace for companies across industries in recent years. It is changing from a “nice to have” to something that is expected by consumers and stakeholders. One study found that 53 percent of S&P 500 companies published sustainability reports in 2011, compared to only 19 percent in 2010, and that number continues to grow. Sustainability reporting has not yet become standard practice in the architecture and engineering industry, but a growing number of companies are publishing reports.


There are many different approaches to sustainability reporting, which often depend on a company’s size and target audience. Large, publically traded companies typically report to investors and environmentally minded shareholders to show how they are proactively identifying risks and putting processes in place to mitigate them. The guidelines established by the Global Reporting Initiative, or GRI, have become a standard model for these firms because investors can easily review and compare companies.


But for companies focused mainly on other outcomes – such as educating employees and communicating to clients, as Thornton Tomasetti is – the GRI model may not be a necessity.  Our 2013 sustainability report is an 11-page snapshot of how our business realizes its commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Our goal was to consolidate the most relevant information in a way that is informative, easily digestible and visually appealing.


So how do you decide the best approach for your company?


Our fast-paced world increasingly revolves around short narratives with captivating visuals, so keep your audience in mind. A short report highlighting key efforts could be more accessible than a long report outlining every detail of your business practices.


Click here to read the views of sustainability reporting experts on this evolving practice.


An important concept when creating a sustainability report, whichever framework you choose, is materiality. Your report should focus on topics that are most connected to your business. In a recent article, the associate director of Corporate Citizenship said, “Report what matters to the people that matter, and the rest will follow naturally.” The article explains how even GRI is moving away from a prescriptive approach in its upcoming G4 guidelines to give companies more autonomy over how to report on what is meaningful to them.


Another key aspect of sustainability reporting is goal setting. It is difficult for a company to set tangible goals for business operations, and even harder to explain these goals in a way that provides concrete steps for reaching them. Therefore, articulating clear goals, tracking performance and being transparent about progress makes it much easier to engage any audience. At Thornton Tomasetti, goal-setting was a major prerequisite to our report; now we have meaningful data and detailed steps on how to stay on track for success.


Read about Campbell’s recent sustainability report for another example of effective goal setting.


Finally, you must report with balanced transparency. Some people think a sustainability report should only tell the story of a company “doing good,” but this approach limits your ability to address issues and plan for improvement. For example, gloating about how much you donate to charity, rather than discussing the environmental impact or community benefits of your business practices, blurs the lines of a company’s priorities. Corporate sustainability can’t be acquired just by writing a check; companies must tie actions back to business goals and strategically integrate these actions into their core values. This type of transparency better equips a company to identify and manage risks that are most impactful to future success.


Embarking on an inaugural sustainability report can be daunting, but good preparation will provide a strong framework for getting started. Being diligent about collecting data, setting goals, tracking progress and involving a variety of stakeholders will arm you with the information you need to showcase the purpose and impact of your work in a meaningful way.  Click here to view a list of more sustainability reporting tips to help you get started!


Have you created a sustainability/CSR report?  Has it increased your engagement with stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, community, etc.)?



by Renee Charney, President, Charney Coaching and Consulting

On Monday of this week I attended the annual conference sponsored by the New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility (NHBSR) — and img_0070_0_0.jpgwhat a fantastic day it was! The attendees spanned small, medium, and large businesses across northern New England that are focused on, and dedicated to, providing the means for their employees to develop practices in sustainability and social responsibility. Interests ranged from environmental and people engagement, to energy efficiency and volunteerism. Everyone came to hear sessions on a variety of relevant topics (including a keynote by Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman).

There was also a series of exhibitions offering services that support sustainability and social responsibility, and an energizing power-panel of leaders who provided their view of the trends we can expect with regard to sustainability and social responsibility in our communities and organizations.

I was fortunate enough to participate as a facilitator for one of the breakout session topics (we called them Huddle Ups). These were seeded by gathering interest from conference registrants during the registration process; the Huddle Ups were truly their sessions, conversations that struck to the heart of their challenges and hopes for their organizations.

The day was fulfilling and rich with learning.

The conference theme was “Just One Thing” – a simple message – conveying the notion that individuals or organizations do not need to implement a large, complex initiative to gain a commitment to sustainability; it takes just one thing (a small step) to begin the journey.

The most important aspect of the conference was this message – Just One Thing – that everyone understood to mean this: that the efforts of each ccc-staircase-first-step-225x300.jpgand every one of us can help to sustain our environment, employees, and communities, and that these efforts can be simple and inexpensive, yet still impactful. One brilliant and simple suggestion that I heard from a participant in my session was about reducing the size of the trash cans in each office, a simple way to develop an overall awareness (and habit) of generating less waste. Another idea was to offer volunteer days with pay so that employees could offer their services to a needs-based organization of their choice, a way known to deepen the meaning that workplaces have for employees. Another was to have the employees create a “12 Steps to Sustainability” campaign and to dedicate a step (or initiative) for each month of the year. By year’s end, they could then celebrate seeing the fruits of their efforts.

The NHBSR message of Just One Thing is both powerful and simple; it doesn’t take much to make an impact. In fact, the smallest steps can sometimes be the most impactful overall; those small steps can make a difference to a few or to many—it matters overall. What matters is that we have a chance to connect our whole lives through our work, family, and community. When we have the opportunity to do that, our lives make so much more sense overall. What is just one thing that you can do?

By Beth Tener, Principal, New Directions Collaborative

This experience may be familiar to you: I attend a meeting and walk in feeling I have a full plate and do not want to take anything more on. As we get collaborate.pngdeeper into the conversations and explore an area of mutual interest and what can be done, an excitement builds about possible work we can do together. An idea emerges that I get enthused about and before I know it, I find myself volunteering to take on some action items. Even though I am busy, I was motivated to somehow find time to devote to it. This choice to commit came from my intrinsic motivation, not from a boss telling me I have to do this.

This is the spark that we want to light when we work with people and design meetings, initiatives, and work structures. It is particularly important for developing and implementing corporate responsibility strategies, which inherently need the input and engagement of people across many functions and skills sets.

What does it take to create the conditions where people are self-motivated to contribute and collaborate? Here are three core elements:

From Convincing to Co-Creating: In the traditional view of leadership, a leader is one who has a vision and builds buy-in from others to help engage and implement it. In practice, this can feel like trying to convince and cajole people to get on board with our priorities. We focus on “building the case,” messaging, creating mandates and accountability structures, incentives, and audits to monitor behavior – essentially creating a range of external motivators to get other people to behave in ways we want.

In contrast, the emerging view of leadership is participatory and designed to spark people’s intrinsic motivation to participate. We focus on creating the context and process to enable a group to collectively decide the vision, course of action, and continually learn together and adjust course over time. Instead of one part of the organization convincing another, more integrated solutions are co-created drawing on a diversity of perspectives and expertise. Work is structured to enable fluid collaboration and teamwork where each person or part of the company works from their strengths to generate a whole greatequestions_marks.jpgr than the sum of its parts.

Start with Questions: The fundamental orientation for this participatory style of leadership is open inquiry. As a leader, our focus is on honing and asking the most powerful questions rather than promoting one answer. Fran Peavey, who created a technique for this called Strategic Questioning, said it well: “It’s a far superior strategy to get all the minds working on what needs to change rather than to convince each person to do what we think is best.”

Strategic questions are open questions that inspire movement, creative thinking, and/or reflective learning. For example: “When we had a major change happen here in the past, what actions and conditions led to that change? How might we create those conditions as we approach this change?”

Convene Conversations: Getting all minds working on what needs to change calls for new ways of convening meetings. Most of the preparation time is to get the question right, invite a diverse mix of people, and create a quality of space where they can really talk. The Art of Hosting is a resource of these types of innovative facilitation techniques that capture the collective intelligence of a group, such as World Café, Open Space, and Proaction Café. The aim is to create the fertile ground for peoples’ perspectives and ideas to connect, combine, seed, and take root.  

"Human interaction is the key force in overcoming resistance and speeding change." – Atul Gawande

Working in this way can stretch us beyond our comfort zone and takes some practice. Instead of being the professional with the answers, we have to learn to sit with questions we do not know the answers to and trust the group and the process. It is not easy to walk into a meeting and have no idea what the outcome will be. We have to build our capacity to be comfortable with uncertainty. Stretching like this is worth it, as I can attest. It is a great feeling when a promising new idea emerges and you can sense the spark of excitement of people in the room to take it forward.

So, take a chance and submit a question for a possible Huddle Up discussion at our Spring Conference.  Stretch beyond your comfort zone - it will be worth it!


by Becky Holt, Calypso Communications

The concept behind Just One Thing seeks to motivate businesses, with stories from their peers, to carry out one sustainability initiative - that one attainable idea that creates shared value, whether it benefits your employees, the community or the environment.

But what if this one attainable idea, also helped grow your revenue stream? As consumers, the influencer that is so fundamental to the way we choose products and services, is also one of the most overlooked ‘tactics’ in the marketing world: having a product or service that is remarkable, or worth sharing.

Does your company strive to deliver a remarkable product or service?  Do you feel like you are pushing your product or service on the consumer or is what you offer so extraordinary that it markets itself,  being talked about and shared within your current customers’  larger networks. By “shared” I am not referring to how many ‘likes’ your company has on Facebook, or re-tweets on Twitter, I am talking about the verbal referrals we give to our friends, family and colleagues when we’ve just had a great experience.

Remarkable doesn’t happen overnight, but it can be built with small steps -  maybe a customer service initiative, or an employee program that sparks employees to spread how satisfying their work life is, or even a financial commitment for a community cause. Not only will the parties affected share their satisfaction with others, they will share it with YOU – and there is nothing wrong with feeling good about what you do.

If I could predict one marketing trend that will continue to spread it will be the one that taps into our human instinct to discover and share. Don’t push annoying banner ads on your potential customers - impress the ones you already have by doing Just One Thing at your company to prove you’re worth talking about. Your bottom line will thank you.

Becky Holt is a Public Relations Account Executive at Calypso Communications in Portsmouth.

Help foster more sustainable business in New Hampshire by sharing your sustainability story, visit our Just One Thing page to find out how!


By Jay Friedlander, College of the Atlantic and 2013 NHBSR Conference Keynote Speaker

A perspective that matches your potential

We are surrounded by the constant churning of enterprises rising and being destroyed. In the midst of such competitive turmoil, a fresh perspective is critical to thriving and identifying new avenues of growth.  Unfortunately, many of the strategic models used by businesses today fail to connectspiderweb.jpg
sustainability and strategy, putting blinders on management. This prevents enterprises from reaching their potential and opens them up to being eclipsed by their competitors.  The context of business is ever changing and it is time for the models to catch up.  In over a decade of working in and with sustainable companies and teaching sustainable enterprise, I have found the need for a model that reveals a new perspective, one that makes sustainability strategic. Using such a model and gaining fresh insights uncovers opportunities and unlocks innovation. The model, called a Value Web, is a framework that examines business holistically. Applying it surrounds an enterprise with an interlocking and self-reinforcing web of value, generating wins for stakeholders across all of the activities of a business. In doing so, the Value Web™ offers companies a route to a continuously improving sustainable competitive advantage.

Creative destruction is changing the competitive context
The economy marches on evolving through the agricultural, industrial, as well as the information and service ages assigning the former titans of
industry to the dustbin of history. Either change or fall prey to this cycle of creative destruction. This failure to adapt has meant that only one
company listed in 1896, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was conceived and when commodities and agriculture reigned supreme, has
been forward-looking enough to survive – General Electric. This constant turnover has been ongoing and is only speeding up. For example, in the
last five years nearly a third of the components, nine of 30 companies, have been replaced. While the Dow tracks what is happening amongst the
largest companies in the United States, the pace of change is similar for businesses large and small.

We are entering an age where sustainable companies will reign supreme. Reams of evidence from books like Conscious Capitalism to Harvard Business Review articles and academic studies tracking stock market performance exist to say that we are in an age where sustainably focused companies are outperforming their peers. They are finding new opportunities and unlocking innovation by asking new questions and approaching business from a different perspective.

Is your company operating with blinders on?
So, how do these phenomenally successful companies come undone? In a word: perspective. A slew of companies listed on the Dow followed the path of former Dow component Eastman Kodak and that of technology companies like Blackberry. They become entrenched in what made them
successful without keeping an eye on the change coming down the road. By using the models and frameworks of the past, these companies were
operating with a limited field of vision and as a result were blindsided by more forward-thinking competitors. This begs a personal question: is your
company going to be passed by? How do you find new opportunities for the next economic age and avoid becoming irrelevant?

Making people, profits and planet strategic
Considering people, profits and planet (3P) and making prosperity for all stakeholders a priority is often quoted and used with varying degrees of
success. Some efforts are intentional, others lip service and some happy accidents. Ideally, considering 3P drives managers and executives to
create a virtuous cycle whereby each action reinforces the other. Some of the results sought by pursuing this goal are highlighted below in figure 1.

Figure 1: Benefits from pursuing 3P practices. 
triangle_0.pngHowever, as much as 3P is touted, its impact could be strengthened by applying it to all of the activities of a company, from materials acquisition
and production to marketing and sales. This is key to making sustainability strategic. To maximize the impact for all stakeholders, each of these
activities must be passed through the 3P screen. Explicitly making waste or, more accurately, unsold production part of analysis also assists
companies in identifying new sources of value. Finally, companies should also reimagine their business by closing the loop and making unsold
production an input. (Figure 2)

Figure 2: People, Profits and Planet at Every Activity


The Value Web offers a sustainable competitive advantage
This new model helps companies look at each aspect of their operation, uncovering latent value and spurring creativity. Furthermore, because the
interwoven parts are more difficult to copy, the Value Web (Figure 3) creates competitive barriers. Since the expectations of each stakeholder
group are constantly evolving, the Value Web is regenerative. It highlights potential opportunities to refresh and revive as the company seeks to
satisfy new stakeholder desires. As a result, this creates an atmosphere of continuous improvement, which is key to avoiding obsolescence.


Figure 3: The Value Web
value_web_0.pngLook no further than Triple Pundit to see copious examples of companies spinning their new web of value. As you read the stories and think about
your own company, ask yourself which activities are changing and if this is a piecemeal or systemic approach. It’s a question that competition will
answer soon enough.

To learn more about how to apply the Value Web to your business, register for the Corporate Sustainability Leadership Program at UNH on April 2nd - 4th.  Jay will be teaching a session on methodology.

(This blog was originally published in Triple Pundit.)



Professor Jay Friedlander is the Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business at College of the Atlantic (COA) in Bar
Harbor, Maine. COA has been repeatedly cited as a leader in sustainability and Jay’s work has been covered in Fast Company, Princeton Review, CNN, Chronicle of Higher Education, Christian Science Monitor and Money amongst other media. Jay has been a frequent presenter at conferences in the United States, as well as New Zealand, Australia, and the European Union on sustainability, enterprise and innovation. Jay can be reached

Post by Alyson Genovese, Cause Solutions

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!” – William Shakespeare “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

philanthropy.pngSmall companies admittedly have it tough, philanthropically-speaking. Business owners are working hard to build a sustainable company, employ local workers, and create economic value. Small business owners are “chief cook and bottle-washer.”

One of the best parts of living in a community with a vibrant small business community is that the owners are highly accessible, which can sometimes prove a challenge: the owners must field requests for philanthropic funding. A lot. Unlike their large company peers, they do not have the luxury of creating an infrastructure to facilitate such requests or have dedicated staff for community giving.

Although small businesses have very different assets to bear than their large business counterparts, it does not mean that those assets are LESS valuable. Small businesses are nimble, they are close to their consumer, passionate and the lines between personal and professional lives are often blurred. On the front lines in communities, many small businesses are greatly affected by the economic and social health of their communities.

In short, they get it.

Small business owners can be highly effective philanthropic leaders. Adding staff or establishing a complex process are not necessary to serve your community and your business.

Understand How Philanthropic Giving Can Impact Business Needs
I know. We are all purists and want to think that companies give into communities because it’s just the right thing to do. But that’s not how it works. Cause-programs, corporate giving strategies and the like can help address strategic business challenges. Sometimes it’s marketing and developing relationships with consumers in an emotional way. Sometimes it’s attracting and retaining talent. When you figure out what your business pain points are – as though you don’t already know them – you can start to imagine how your philanthropic giving can help address those needs.

Determine Your Unique Value
Let’s just say it… nonprofit organizations always appreciate cash. However, cash can come from a variety of sources. High quality professional services can be much harder to come by. For small business owner Chris Conroy of Heartwood Media, it can be difficult to offer cash contributions to local nonprofit organizations. Instead, the company created the Nonprofit Challenge, where it selects one New Hampshire nonprofit to offer variety of strategic counsel, branding, video production and promotion support. This allows Heartwood to use its expertise and assets in a way that can be invaluable to the nonprofit partner that might otherwise never be able to afford such a level of communications tools, which can then be used to reach new audiences (and new dollars).

Focus Your Giving
It’s impossible to be everything for everyone. So focus on the social issue you care most about, the geographic area that is most important or themake-a-difference.jpg population you wish to affect and give there. This focus will allow you to articulate why, where and how your company can add value to its community. Some companies donate gift certificates only, while others dedicate cash funding to a particular social issue or neighborhood. Nonprofits appreciate this focus – by knowing what you stand for and what your organization chooses to support, it knows how to be better fundraisers. They may not even solicit your organization, or will know how to speak to you in a way that fits with your values. Also, hearing “no” is a lot more palatable when it’s given for a valid and thoughtful reason.

One innovative and local idea is Sequoya Technologies’ Sequoya SeedsTM program. Most simply, when a client subscribes to the company’s managed service plan, they designate a local nonprofit of their own choice to receive a monthly donation equal to 5% of their service fees. For clients that meet a stated threshold of business, an additional grant will be made in the client’s name to their nonprofit of choice. This program now averages approximately $500 in donations monthly. Customer loyalty? Check. Local impact? Check. Scalable with their business? Check.

Be Okay with Telling Your Story
A recent consumer study conducted by Cone Communications found that 88% of consumers “want to know what companies are doing” in sustainability and philanthropy. The most effective places for companies to share their good news stories? Topping the list are in-store signage, on products, and in social media. This means that consumers want to hear about your commitments, values and accomplishments as part of your existing communications efforts to consumers. These are communication vehicles that small businesses are already using to reach target audiences. Rather than thinking of philanthropy story-telling as yet another thing to do, consider it part of your overall brand story.

just_one_thing_003ae.pngThe perfect place to start is by telling your story via our Just One Thing campaign!  Ask your employees to share one thing about your company that they're proud to share; they just might give you a different perspective.  Send stories to Michelle or go to our Just One Thing webpage to enter your stories or submit your links to YouTube.

Our Just One Thing Media Sponsor, New Hampshire Business Review will help us to tell your story beginning later this spring.  Don't miss the chance to share your stories - send them now!

Having fun should be taken very seriously if you want a sustainable business. Trust me on that.
by Robin Eichert of PeopleSense Consulting LLC

Picture in your mind the workplace culture that demands the best from their employees. These employers task their staff to bring highly innovative products to market on a competitive time schedule, to provide exceptional quality service, and to ensure ample and consistent financial security.wirebelt_bwtb20140001_640x299_0.jpg

One might immediately think these highly-driven organizations require their employees to have their nose to the grindstone all day, every day, slaves to their work in order to achieve these high standards. You’d be wrong.

New Hampshire companies, several of them NHBSR members, are creating new and exciting paradigms for the workplace. These are workplaces where having fun rules. Seriously. These companies understand an employee is more than just the engineer or line worker that clocks in from 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. These exceptional employers see the whole person, one who has a family, friends, outside interests, and an array of needs, that when nurtured, provide a wealth of goodness in return.

Each year, NHBSR partners with Business NH Magazine to identify “The Best Companies to Work For.” It’s an enormous effort to whittle through the impressive programs offered by dozens of organizations to determine those that are the cream of the crop. These aren’t just the big companies, either. Significant ideas are implemented successfully at small companies, with as few as 10 employees.

There are plenty of your tried-and-true offerings, such as gift cards and pizza parties, even a Nacho Bar, and champagne toasts for achieving established milestones.  But lots of meaningful (and of course, fun) programs are also provided, such as paid time to volunteer at a favorite non-profit organization of the employees’ choice, generous tuition reimbursement , and free memberships to health clubs, even onsite gym facilities and access to yoga classes and massage therapists (hey, sign me up!).

It doesn’t stop there, though. I find the truly amazing examples are of policies that speak volumes of the mutual and deep trust that exists between the leadership and employees, at all levels. This kind of trust and autonomy can leave your run-of-the-mill executive feeling quite vulnerable and uneasy.

Imagine an organization that purposely has no policy on how much vacation time is allowed. The leaders at this organization aren’t thinking in terms of who will abuse it, instead they focus on the expectation of each employee to make appropriate decisions on how to balance their work schedule.

Picture the leadership that encourages all junior managers to spend up to $10,000 on customer-related projects or internal research -- without any approval. It’s clear than empowerment and trust are at the forefront of this culture.

This is more than having fun (though there is always a boatload evident in these organizations). The best companies demonstrate trust.

hypertherm_bestco20130001_0_0.jpgExecutives in CSR-minded companies are constantly seeking best practices for engaging employees. Look no further: there are numerous, impressive examples that could easily be happening in your own neighborhood. Nothing in New Hampshire is that far away, and we have the enviable opportunity to share and learn from each other to achieve our shared goals of doing well by doing good. 

Want to be a part of the movement? There are two immediate ways to get involved. First, leave a comment here about something you are doing at your organization – or even something you’ve considered but have questions about. Let’s learn together and help each other to be our best.

And secondly, come to a fun event on Valentine’s Day!  Join all the award-winners, including NHBSR members, Wire Belt Company of America, W.S. Badger Company, and Hypertherm Inc. for Breakfast with the Best. They will be sharing their stories of what they love at their companies, and you can enrich the conversation with your ideas and questions.

What’s not to love about being inspired by our fellow business leaders? Held at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester at 7:30 a.m., you can register here

These companies demand the best from their employees. But first, they offer trust. I’d love to see you on Valentine’s Day so we can all learn from the best.