Community Service on an Uncertain Economy

Note: the following byliner ran in the January 10, 2011 issues of Miami Herald Business Monday.

The benefits of community service are well known – strengthening the community, bettering society, advancing a movement or a cause and personal development. But in the midst of an uncertain economy, why is this still important and how should businesses of all sizes incorporate community service into their annual planning process?

Community service is woven into the fabric of our law firm, a belief our founders Robert Floyd and Ray Pearson created almost 50 years ago. Every single attorney in our firm, junior and senior, is involved in the community and we strongly feel it is our duty, and obligation, to give back to the community.
Ben Franklin’s motto ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’ continues to resonate today, but given the pressures of a down economy and a sluggish rebound, how should businesses make the most out of their community involvement? Below are a few guidelines:
*Identity organizations where your clients (or customers) are members.
*Select a cause that you enjoy and are passionate about – you are more likely to attend and will have more in common with members of this group.
*Look at the number of competitors already involved in the group – select one with fewer competitors where you will stand out.
*Spread participation among employees in different organizations.
*Make sure the organization has a sizeable member base and longevity in the community.
*Over time, develop your involvement into a leadership role such as a director, trustee or officer.
*Keep community involvement in perspective – being organized will help you juggle your work responsibilities and commitment to the community.
*Set goals and realistic expectations for your involvement – what does the business want to get out of it and what are the different ways you can get involved.
As you develop your plan for community involvement, also keep in mind how you and your business can influence and drive initiatives as a member and future leader in the organization. For example, our firm is very committed to diversity in the workplace. We have chosen to become involved in organizations which advance this effort. As lawyers, we all make a concerted effort to educate the community about this in many ways through the organizations we are involved.
Once the organization(s) is identified, commit to the group and stick with it, even when times are tough. Reducing your participation and sponsorship dollars during tough times is a missed opportunity you may regret later when the economy rebounds. Even if you cannot contribute financially for a time, the hours you put in are valuable and the organization will appreciate and remember that.
A well thought out plan for community involvement will benefit your business long term through all business cycles.

Contributing Attorneys

Garcia-Linares, Manuel A. – Managing Shareholder