Doing Good is Good for Business
Originally published: 11.01.18 by Pete Grasso
When your company gives back to the community in a charitable way, it’s a win-win-win situation for your customers, your employees and your business.
In December 1997, Mark Geschke’s granddaughter Megan Diane was born premature, weighing only 1 lb., 10 oz. Geschke and his family spent five long months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.
During that time, Geschke visited the hospital daily and saw first-hand what the NICU nurses dealt with on a daily basis. It really touched him.
“We got to see first-hand what the NICU nurses do daily; all that goes into the care of these special children. Not only medically, but mentally and physically. It was not only a very emotional time for our family, but a great learning experience on how they cared for Megan and the other babies in the NICU,” Geschke says. “They are truly angles from heaven sent to care for the sickest of children and we can never thank them enough.”
Unfortunately, Megan Diane didn’t make it. Out of that very personal tragedy, however, rose Geschke’s passion for helping those children and nurses.
As owner of Bauer & Son One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Geschke decided not only to give back personally, but also to make it a part of his company’s corporate social responsibility program.
“We shut the company down one day and took everybody down to Akron Children’s Hospital to show them what we were going to get involved with,” Geschke says. “At that point, I was still in a position where I didn’t have a whole lot of day-to-day duties, so I could really take whatever days I wanted.”
Mondays were normally his day off, so Geschke figured he’d go down there personally and volunteer every week. And he’s been there ever since. In addition to Bauer & Son’s local involvement with Akron Children’s Hospital, Geschke spearheaded Direct Energy’s corporate participation with the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN).
“Helping hospitals with advances in technology and equipment are just one of the ways donations from Direct Energy help power the lives of patients at CMN Hospitals,” Geschke says.
To date, Direct Energy has donated over $1.7 million through each of their brands campaigns and programs. Donations are used to fund patient services, new equipment and charitable care.
Corporate Social Responsibility programs like Direct Energy’s are not unique to this industry.
Every day, stories appear in the news about charitable programs put on by HVACR contractors and manufacturers.
Giving back to the community is a great way to boost employee morale, connect with customers on a personal level and, most important, improve the comfort and lives of others.
In January 2018, Service Experts became a proud supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As an organization, Service Experts has donated $150,000 to help create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.
“As of September 30, we have raised an additional $133,527 through various local marketing activities such as our company-wide Bowl-A-Thon, employee payroll deductions, t-shirt sales, dunk booths, internal raffles, spare change jars and yard sales,” says Scott Boose, president and CEO of Service Experts. “As a company, it’s important for us to be able to participate in the communities where we live, work and play.”
Not only is it important to give back, but Boose also believes it gives their company an incredible opportunity to truly make a difference in people’s lives through this partnership. Above and beyond Service Experts’ initial donation, the company incentivizes its local centers to work with their partners and customers in the community to help grant even more wishes.
“Our employees throughout the United States and Canada have taken the initiative to coordinate various local activities to generate awareness and provide additional support for Make-A-Wish,” Boose says. “Our employees have come together to coordinate local fundraising initiatives and host three wish reveal events.”
The amount of teamwork and extra effort has been amazing. Boose says it’s exhilarating to see so many of their employees come together to support the partnership with Make-A-Wish to help grant wishes to brave children who are living with serious illnesses.
“We’ve seen our involvement with Make-A-Wish reach to our customers, as many of them have decided to join us on our journey to help grant more wishes by actively participating in our campaigns,” he says. “There are so many important organizations that can expand their mission through the support of corporate partnerships.”
Through its involvement with Make-A-Wish, Service Experts hopes its customers continue to realize the commitment to the communities it serves. Backed by an incredible team of big-hearted general managers and their teams, Service Experts has also performed incredible acts of kindness in their communities throughout the US and Canada. Local center community efforts included staging food, blood, toy, and clothing drives to donating entire home comfort systems.
“We have been fortunate enough to work with great teams through various local Make-A-Wish chapters and have also been honored to get to know a few wish families in markets where we have hosted wish reveal events,” Boose says.
Friedrich Air Conditioning
Friedrich Air Conditioning believes in the value of excellence and that extends to everything it does.
“We create innovative high-quality products, but we believe our legacy as a 135-year old company extends beyond product, to impact lives,” says Holly Beck, director of marketing for Friedrich. “Corporate Social Responsibility is a part of our culture and as stated in our mission statement, we are ‘committed to improving people’s lives with our products and social actions.’”
Corporate philanthropy is important to Friedrich. The company actively looks for opportunities to support a variety of worthy causes and contribute to the advancement of education in HVACR and engineering studies.
Product support has ranged from hurricane relief efforts, to schools, orphanages, historic buildings, local and national homeless assistance organizations, a Children’s STEM Museum and the San Antonio Zoo.
Central to Friedrich’s corporate values is a focus on doing the right thing. That guides the company and the decisions it makes.
“It’s not just about donating product; it’s about contributing to the overall benefit of the community, locally and nationwide,” Beck says. “We encourage Friedrich employees to get involved as well and many have contributed their own time, effort and talents to doing everything from delivering donations to helping with installing them.”
While Friedrich doesn’t have a formal corporate giving program, worthy causes and requests often come to them or are recommended, and with limited resources, they try to accommodate if they’re able and if it is a fit with what they do.
“Our employees make suggestions and pitch in to help,” Beck says.
A great example of that is when Hurricane Irene struck last year, devastating a coastal town not too far away from Friedrich’s headquarters. The company received a request from the emergency crews who were trying to provide relief for that community.
Given the lack of transportation services to that area at the time, a group of our employees volunteered to drive and deliver all the donated Friedrich product to help ensure it got to where it was needed most.
“It creates tremendous pride among our employees to give back in this way and see the real difference our products can make to someone’s life,” Beck says. “Oftentimes, we’re working to give back to people and organizations who are not only facing extremely difficult situations, but whose suffering is greater due to the lack of A/C resources.”
Another example is an orphanage in Mexico where Friedrich donated product last year. The facility is in an area where the temperatures can often reach 100F and the kids and staff desperately needed relief from the blazing temperatures.
“There are many stories like this, and our employees get an incredible amount of satisfaction knowing their work and efforts have directly helped improve the quality of someone else’s life,” Beck says. “Friedrich employees have always taken a lot of pride in their work, but absolutely, these efforts multiply that by tenfold. When you can see how what you do greatly impacts and improves someone’s quality of life, you can’t help but feel empowered and proud of the difference you’re making.”
It’s also important for employees to see that the company doesn’t just talk about its corporate values, but also works hard to live up to them through actions that make a difference not only to customers, but to its community.
Everyone at Friedrich embraces that philosophy and sees that it is driven not only from the top down but also bottom up through efforts like these.
“Contractors have a valuable skill that can make a real difference to society,” Beck says. “By donating their time and talent, they can impact the quality of life for those in need.”
Beck believes the primary motivation for giving back is not for marketing purposes, although they do work with recipient organizations to announce when they’ve installed donated product and when possible, create case studies about them.
“We view that as a win-win for both Friedrich and the recipient as an avenue to help get the word out about worthy causes and potentially inspire others to get involved,” she says.
ARS/Rescue Rooter has a long history of community involvement and outreach. ARS Cares aims to donate an HVACR system or water heater to a community member in need.
“We wanted to start a program that provided home comfort to people who need but cannot afford it in our communities,” says Dave Slott, co-CEO of ARS/Rescue Rooter.
ARS’s service centers coordinate closely with corporate to ensure the most impactful strategy for their location. The service centers of ARS/Rescue Rooter eagerly adopted this program, and many branches elect to do multiple installations a year.
“Employees look forward to participating in these installations,” Slott says. “Many donate their time for the work done, and the day is full of laughs, tears and other memories that make this program so special. ARS/Rescue Rooter is a very big family, and our communities are our homes.”
Community outreach and volunteerism through programs like ARS Cares, participating in Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine” and sponsoring many non-profit organizations nationwide is critical to the morale of the organization.
“Community outreach is a great teambuilding resource, and employees love sharing photos and stories from these activities,” Slott says. “ARS will always be an organization that realizes our communities are of the upmost importance.”
Slott believes both consumers and prospective talent are attracted to companies that are socially responsible. ARS knows that doing the right thing is essential to its success.
Over the past year, Online-Access, Inc. developed and tested its Helping out Locally program to give its more than 400 contractor clients the ability to shift marketing dollars into local giving — and do it profitably.
“My brother and I were raised with the belief that giving back is a privilege — not a burden,” says David Squires, president of Online-Access. “We spent a year testing and refining it so that our clients can easily run competitions between organizations in their community, to engage their community in a way where everyone wins and they dramatically increase their brand awareness.”
When they started testing the program in their HVAC company, Vincent’s Heating and Plumbing, they made sure their employees knew about the goals and had input into the local groups they work with, which gave them employee buy-in.
“Our team at Online-Access loves the fact that with just our existing clients alone, helping out Locally has the potential to put more than two million dollars a year into deserving local organizations all around the country” Squires says. “Our clients have really loved the fact that we have the program for them to use and that it is totally turnkey.”
Vincent’s Heating and Plumbing has also benefited tremendously from the program. In one charity competition they sponsored, there were more than 12,000 votes from a total of about 4,000 people.
“All of the voters were local, and they went to our HVACR company website to vote,” Squires says. “The odds are good that those four thousand people that were on our website an average of three times in three months, that if their equipment breaks down in the near future that they will recognize our name when they are looking for a contractor.”
Considering that Vincent’s market area is only 30,000 homes, having 13 percent of the entire market area engaging with the company for less than a $2,000 donation is a decent return on a good deed.
“This plus the fact that we now have email and SMS information from everyone that voted and we know what they are passionate about, gives us the ability to do affinity marketing with offers that when acted upon help their charity as well,” Squires says. “What contractors need to realize is that the number one reason customers will choose them is familiarity.”
When you start to engage with the community, you become memorable because you’re involved in what they are passionate about.
“This is much better than trying to get them passionate about a metal box on the side of their house that they don’t even know exists until it breaks,” Squires says. “By making the program a fun competition between charities, not only our company promotes it, but their donors promote it to all their friends making it go viral locally.”
It’s important today for contractors to learn how to engage their clients to create familiarity. The days of cheap leads through Internet search are quickly coming to an end as Google monetizes their local business search.
“The best way to make sure you are your potential customer’s choice is to be a familiar part of their world,” Squires believes. “In the 40 years I’ve been in this Industry, the fundamental truth of marketing remains, ‘People do business with people they like — and people like them.’”
Lennox, as a corporation, has five focus areas of giving: youth, environment, health, arts and education. On the residential side of the business, Lennox has concentrated on the environment side and how to serve the community and make their environment comfortable.
“Most people would maybe take environment as more of a sustainability nature, but we’ve taken more of a softer approach,” says Stephanie Bond, director of marketing and communication at Lennox. “We have 125 plus years of experience as a business leader … we like to say we have the privilege and the power, and we have the position to really positively impact our communities while also benefiting the bottom line.”
Formerly called Lennox Heat Up, the new Feel the Love program provides free HVACR installations to those in need.
“We asked, ‘what can we do to bring comfort, align it to our business goals and bring it to homeowners that otherwise would potentially not be comfortable in their home?’” Bond says. “And that was really the beginning of Heat Up, which has now become Feel the Love.”
There are three key ingredients to the Feel the Love program. First, all HVACR equipment is donated by Lennox. The second ingredient is where the contractor validates a homeowner in need, and they go in, and they install that HVACR equipment for free where their employees are donating their time, and they’re donating all the parts, supplies and the labor to get that done.
“But it really all starts with the community, so the third ingredient is where the community goes in, and they nominate someone in need,” Bond says. “They’re nominating someone that has given back to their community or their country, and most likely never gives to themselves. So, this is someone that is needing but isn’t needy.”
This year, 155 Lennox dealers across 24 states and provinces participated in Feel the Love Day, doing roughly 165 installations for families in need.
It’s no secret that recruiting and retaining employees in this industry is difficult. Bond believes another benefit of Feel the Love is the sense of purpose it gives employees of its dealers.
“There are so many statistics out there right now around employees really looking for organizations, businesses, companies that have a higher purpose and get behind a cause,” Bond says. “Ninety-three percent of employees want to be a part of something bigger, want to work for a company that is part of something bigger, so this program is outstanding in terms of how you can recruit and retain employees.”
Corporate Social Responsibility programs can also have a tremendous impact on recruiting new customers. There are also statistics that say a homeowner, or a customer is more likely to choose a business or a product when they give back and they have higher purpose.
“People are really searching for a well-rounded, well respected business, and so this can be the difference of why a consumer chooses a Lennox dealer over a competitor,” Bond says. “You also see the benefit of even more profit and revenue, because people are more willing to buy a more expensive product, as well.”