When it comes to helping their communities, global media and technology company Comcast really knows how to ignite enthusiasm.
Exhibit A: The company’s annual Comcast Cares Day, the nation’s largest single-day company volunteer effort, harnesses the energy of employees and their families, friends and community partners to make a huge difference. In 2013 alone, over 85,000 volunteers in 39 states, the nation’s capital, and for the first time international locations, donated more than 510,000 hours of community service. Projects included everything from installing computer labs at local community centers to beautifying schools to planting trees.
These are impressive numbers, demonstrating an engaged employee base as well as connections in the community. So how does Comcast pull it off?
1. Remember that the devil’s in the details
The goal may be big community impact, but Comcast understands that leveraging little things helps you get there. Case in point? The Comcast Cares Day t-shirts.
That’s right, t-shirts.
“The t-shirt holds a special place in our hearts because we view them as sort of a badge of honor,” says Sherri Jurgens, Director of National Programs for Community Investment at Comcast. “You only get a t-shirt if you actually come out and volunteer.”
The tees aren’t just a tool to create more engaged employees. They also act as a way to get the word out around the company before Comcast Cares Day. “Lots of us wear the shirt the Friday before Comcast Cares Day,” says Jurgens.
The shirt also builds a sense of solidarity among employees — and the community — throughout the year. “One of the nicest things about living and working in downtown Philadelphia, home of Comcast’s headquarters, is on a random Saturday or Sunday, in the summer months when I am walking around town, I see other folks wearing the Cares Day shirt,” Jurgens notes. “It’s sort of like a moment of solidarity – when you receive that all-approving head nod.”
The company also raises visibility for Comcast Cares Day by changing email signatures in advance of the event. “It sounds simple,” says Jurgens, “but it’s a very nice visual way to showcase Cares Day both internally and externally. One of our biggest goals is to make sure that we never hear someone say, ‘I wasn’t aware of Cares Day.’”
2. Help your employees step up
Employees want to work for a company that cares. So how do you let them know you care?
Comcast shows their support by encouraging employees to step up and do some heavy lifting of their own if and when the spirit moves them.
While Jurgens helps to coordinate all of the efforts, Comcast’s employees who live and work in the communities where the company hosts projects have a lot to do with the giving back logistics of Cares Day. “Employees are involved in site selection and developing projects,” she explains. This has a tangible effect, beyond being something that just sounds good on paper. “Their passion is so much higher. People are far more likely to get engaged because the beauty of Cares Day is it’s not a top-down program.” This, in turn, helps to create more visibility for Comcast Cares Day, as employees who are engaged are more likely to go forth and spread the good word. Comcast employees commonly ask if a volunteer project is kid friendly, reflecting the fact that Comcast Cares Day engages more than just the employees themselves, but also their families.
Since the employees also live in the community, Comcast empowers them to select projects that they know from first-hand experience will have a long-term impact. For example, an employee who drives past a run-down playground every day may be motivated to help bring that playground back to life and create a safe place for children to play. Comcast empowers employees to recognize a need in their communities, then supports their employees’ initiatives by throwing the full weight of the company behind their efforts.
3. Leverage social media smartly
Comcast uses social media to spread the word about Comcast Cares Day, but the company goes far beyond just bombarding people with announcements on Facebook and Twitter. Rather, Comcast Cares Day includes a special Flickr account that allows participants to upload images of themselves engaged in their communities in real time.
“It starts up on the East Coast first and then kind of sweeps across the country,” Jurgens notes. “You’re getting that imagery early on. It’s thousands and thousands of pictures that we go through and then you start connecting back the stories and you’ll start saying, ‘This is a really compelling image. Where is this from? If it’s the project that came from the site, go back and tell me about that.’”
If anyone was on the fence, but decided to sit the day out, the Flickr account shows them what they’re missing, while also illustrating where they can get involved in the future.
Which, as it turns out, isn’t that far off.
“We are literally starting to plan for Cares Day next year before the current year’s Cares Day has actually happened.”