I am a big proponent of corporations investing in their communities, whether through monetary donations or time. I think it provides so much value to both the organization and the employees. And in general, it’s hard to go wrong by bettering the lives of others. However, there is always the exception to the rule, and that’s the case when it comes to companies deciding whether they will invest in their communities or invest in their employees.

Ideally, every company would be able to pay their employees competitively and donate to worthwhile causes, but here in the real world, many companies are forced to choose one or the other. You can argue a valid case for both sides, and from what I’ve experienced, the recommendation just depends on whom you ask. On the one hand, an enormous number of companies have employees who, despite being employed full-time, get by on very little. To this working poor, even a seemingly insignificant pay increase would make a difference in their bottom line. However, on the other hand, these same companies must consider the impact they have on the community, the public’s perception of them, and the internal effects of not giving back.

Big Splash vs. Small Ripple

When companies know they can (or want to) only spend a limited amount, they’re faced with the choice of where to spend it. For instance, if a medium-sized company in a small town has $10,000 to allocate, one of the factors they have to consider is what the best use of the money would be. For instance, they can donate $10,000 to the local elementary school and earn a decent amount of publicity, or they can give each of their 250 employees a raise that equates to a couple of extra dollars in each paycheck. Often, it’s as simple as choosing what will make a big splash instead of what might cause a small ripple.

That Warm and Fuzzy Feeling

Now, more than ever, workers are concerned with being part of a company with a conscience. Just because employees struggle to make ends meet doesn’t mean they don’t want to give back to those in need. So, when their employer does it, they experience the same type of pride as if they’d made the decision. Sometimes companies make the call to donate rather than raise salaries because being an employer that fosters a culture of giving is far more valuable than being the employer that gave a three percent raise.

Taking Care of Others Before Their Own

While there are probably companies that make the conscious decision to pay employees only what they have to in order to keep them, and at the same time sponsor the local baseball team so their name is listed as a sponsor on their t-shirts, I believe most companies have good intentions. Sometimes, though, intentions can be misguided. It’s easy to overlook the problems right under your nose while trying to solve the problems outside of your company’s four walls. The biggest piece of advice I can give in regards to this is to take care of your own before you try to take care of everyone else.

Has your company struggled to find the right balance between investing in the community and investing in its employees? Tell us about your journey to finding that balance or the challenges you face.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

2 Comments

  • Avatar Tara Summers says:

    If there is a choice between allocating money into the community and giving a small raise to each employee, I would definitely invest into the community. A small raise wouldn’t make a big impact, while giving money to buy some medicine for the sick or helping orphans get a good education can make a difference. Besides, in such a way the company will create a reputation for itself, and in business world reputation is everything.

  • Avatar Jerry P. says:

    It’s great to help others, but before giving money to the local community, the company should take care about its employees, and make sure they are satisfied with their salaries. If an employee gets even a small raise once in a while, s/he will be more motivated to work and feel more valued and appreciated. On the contrary, when employees see that the company constantly invests into sport competitions or some event organization, and doesn’t care much about employees, no doubt that they would start leaving the company.

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