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When Community Involvement Figures Into Business Success

Editor’s Note: This profile is an installment in the Healthy Leader Project initiated by the 2017 WorldatWork Work-Life Advisory Council (WLAC). The project, launched in the January 2018 issue of Workspan, will run profiles on healthy leaders in the magazine throughout the year.

Tom Raffa realizes not every business can be like his: providing accounting and business services to nonprofits. But he contends that every business would be well served to make community service part of its business.

Raffa, a CPA, worked for a big, traditional accounting operation for nearly a decade before starting his own Washington, D.C.-area company in 1984. “I wanted to be a catalyst for positive, systemic change in the community. We dedicated ourselves to give back 10% of gross revenue to the community. That was $9,000 the first year.”

As he started volunteering in the community, people saw that and started joining in, said Raffa, describing it as “catalytic philanthropy.”

In 30-plus years, he’s managed to find professionals who share that community- service spirit. Annual voluntary turnover rate for his 350-employee workforce is just 2%. But Raffa pointed out that there have been bad fits, and that’s when he’s helped workers find better fits in such places as Big 5-type accounting firms.

There are good reasons for HR practitioners to promote corporate social responsibility, contends Raffa, who’s received many honors for his community involvement including the Nonprofit Village’s 2016 Individual Making a Difference Award. “Nowadays, people want to find a bigger purpose. I try to help them to fulfill that purpose within the confines of work.”

Even global businesses cannot thrive in a non-thriving community.

When choosing a cause to support, tap into employee interests and your business’s expertise. “It should come from the employees — something they are engaged in. There are different spectrums of involvement, from taking Friday afternoon off to pick up leaves at the local school to providing donations and professional services. Make sure your firm has the ability and they need that ability.”

Don’t expect immediate business benefits, he warned. “This is a long-term model. It’s not about quarterly earnings per share. It will cost you money immediately and you will not see ROI immediately. But think about the effects on your people and your community long term.

“We should not exist solely for the bottom line. People are expecting us to do more than create money and jobs.”

Next month’s installment of the Healthy Leader Project examines the importance of putting people first.

Jim Fickess Jim Fickess  writes and edits for WorldatWork.

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