14 Ways to Incorporate Social Good Into Your Startup Culture

Gen Y employees don’t necessarily distinguish between personal and professional anymore. They choose companies with perks over paychecks, form strong bonds with their coworkers, take advantage of that corporate gym membership and answer work emails at dinnertime without complaint. It’s not only part of the job, but it’s part of the modern work-life balance that this generation craves.


One core value of Gen Y is social good, and more and more employees are looking to make a positive difference with their profession. While not all millennials are looking for employment with social entrepreneurs, they are considering opportunities with companies with an office culture that prioritizes this value in some way.

We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to find out their advice for giving back as a startup team:

“Do you integrate social good into your company culture? Name one easy way that teams and small businesses can give back.”

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Do What You Do Best for Free

“Our company’s goal is to become an information dissemninator who delivers powerful messages to the masses. We do this well through the speeches that we book for different organizations. One way that we implement social good is to use our influence with famous people to do events for non-profits, free of charge or at a much reduced costs. We stay within our core qualifications while helping others.” ~ Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

2. Let Your People Volunteer

“Don’t make your employees take vacation days if they want to help build a house. Letting people volunteer “on the clock” is good for morale and your brand. Whether they’re giving blood, mentoring a child, or stock a food bank, allow time off for these good deeds. They’ll return to work refreshed and thankful.”
~ Sam Davidson, Cool People Care, Inc.

3. Build Products That Do Good

“Volunteer work is great, but if you want to build a culture around doing good, it must be the core of your business. Companies like REI and TOMS are so successful because their culture is built right into their products. At LabDoor, our core product makes people safer and healthier — for free. There’s no better way to unify a team around social good.” ~ Neil Thanedar, LabDoor

4. Select ‘Social Good’ Vendors

“We recently changed our new customer welcome gift in order to use a company that sells Fair Trade, organic, carbon-free coffee. Plus, they also help community-based programs in coffee-growing countries. Therefore, by using only ‘social good’ vendors, we’re indirectly giving back to the community.” ~ Phil Frost, Main Street ROI

5. Establish a Company Foundation

“We’ve been really focused on ways to give back lately. We’re integrating part of our new platform with Donor’s Choose, which allows them to give back to their local communities. We’ve also recently started The WorkoutBOX Foundation, which allows us to take a portion of our profits and build free outdoor weather-proof gyms in urban, low-income communities to help get kids and their parents active.” ~ Travis Steffen, WorkoutBOX

6. Give Back Through Your Mission

“There are so many opportunities for a company to give back to the community, but your efforts should match your mission as a company. We are a gaming company, so we decided to give back in a playful way. During the holiday season, we collected board games and donated them to a local children’s hospital. In the end, we donated over 40 games to kids who weren’t able to spend the holidays at home.” ~ Justin Beck, PerBlue

7. Create Deep Partnerships With Non-Profits

“Many companies will create 10 percent give-backs to charity, but when we partner with a non-profit, we commit holistically. First, we provide all of the proceeds from a sale to that organization. Second, we try to build awareness for their cause through our blogging and social media outlets. To make a true social impact, sending a small amount of cash is not enough.” ~ Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

8. Make It Part of the Business Model

“One easy way to give back is by making corporate social responsibility an important part of the business model. We’ve created two projects fostering social good: OUR Schools program to teach energy conservation education free in public schools and our Agents of Change have been heading up the Cleats for Bare Feet initiative that collects second-hand cleats and sends them to youth across the world.” ~ Jason Jannati, greeNEWit

9. Business As Usual, Sans the Fee

“Use the resources you already have. Businesses are designed to trade value for money. Figure out a way that your product or service can benefit a particular group of people in need. Then, give that value to them for free whenever possible.” ~ Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk

10. Startups Helping Startups

“I think the best way for small businesses to give back is to utilize their greatest strength — extensive knowledge of what it takes to start a business and make it profitable. There’s a fantastic community to build around a passion for entrepreneurship and we serve as a pro-bono advising team to local startups and university programs like 10-xelerator and Columbus Startup Weekend.” ~ Eric Corl, Fundable LLC

11. Give a Personal Touch

“Charity goes beyond giving money, props, or even time. Give your very self, and make it a personal encounter, one person at a time. Start close. Invite your UPS driver to a company party. Write a Mother’s Day card to one of your vendors. In short, take an interest in other peoples’ lives, and share your own with them. Little things done quietly — with love, and without publicity.” ~ Luke Burgis, ActivPrayer

12. Pay Attention to Your Community

“Altruism is one of our core values. We pay attention to the community and frequently discuss ways to help. Sometimes, it’s via individual efforts, while at other times, everyone participates. One way small businesses can help is by volunteering at a local food bank — they always need help, and people always need to eat.” ~ Brent Beshore, AdVentures

13. Give Offenders a Chance

“This is a work-in-progress for us, and it’s one of my main goals for 2012. We hire a lot of ex-convicts and help them become productive members of society. Somewhere around 90 percent of offenders will reoffend if they don’t have jobs, so we like to help them get back on their feet for the good of everyone.” ~ Jordan Guernsey, Molding Box

14. Start the Positivity Internally

“The most important contribution that a business owner can make to social good can be answered by one simple question: “How was your day at work today?” When each of your employees finishes their workday, they go out into the world and share their happiness or discontent with others. Do whatever you can to make sure that the portion of their lives spent on your watch is positive.” ~ Christopher Kelly, NYC Conference Centers

Volunteer Photo via Shutterstock

The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.