Community Involvement Builds Strong, Engaged Teams

Written by: Karla Isley
Karla Isley, President & CEO, United Way of Cass-Clay

Everyone is a leader because everyone influences someone.”
– John C. Maxwell

When we think of the term “corporate culture” many of us may view these words or concept as something that is created and controlled by a CEO, employer, supervisor, or a specific group of people that serve in leadership positions within a company.

The truth is, corporate culture is shaped mostly by employees at all levels within an organization–including you. Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. In short–you are the corporate culture. When you live out your values and beliefs, and shape the attitude of those you work among, you’re creating the corporate culture. No matter your seat at the table, position on the team, or role, you as an individual employee have great influence on your corporate culture. As an aspiring and growing leader, you have the ability to create the type of workplace you want to come to each day by choosing to maximize your influence. One way to multiply your influence is to seek out ways to be involved and give back to your community, individually, and also encourage others to give of themselves as well. When you take the initiative to rally those around you to give back, this positively impacts those around you, builds teams and improves the world for everyone. As someone looking to increase their leadership skills, making volunteerism and giving back a priority is a way to achieve your goal. United Way shares that same vision with you, which is why we offer a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers to take action for their community and have a ripple effect on their workplace.

Corporate Culture as a Competitive Advantage

Beyond your individual aspirations to shape corporate culture, those who study corporate culture closely agree that engaging the hearts, minds, and hands of talent is the most sustainable source of competitive advantage–it better positions your company to succeed. It is also intriguing to note that in today’s changing world corporate culture is one of the only sustainable competitive advantages that is completely within the control of those that make up a company–and truly anyone and everyone contributes.

Building a Strong Community within Your Workplace and Beyond

To build a strong community, it takes all of us to believe that everyone deserves opportunities to succeed. In our local community, companies play a crucial role in supporting that belief. When you do this, the community, your coworkers, and your company’s culture thrive.

The team at Marvin is a wonderful example of how partnering with United Way can impact corporate culture and give employees meaningful ways to engage in our community. Chris Barta, Senior Director of Operations at Marvin shared, “United Way helps us to create a great place to work. Our partnership with United Way gives our employees so many opportunities to give back, volunteer, and learn about the needs that exist in our community. United Way events give employees a chance to connect with one another and be engaged with their community. Those are all factors as to how employees feel about their work and their workplace.”

The team at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota partners with United Way year-round to give employees a wide variety of ways to give back and be actively involved. This partnership continues to shape their corporate culture each and every day. Dan Conrad, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota shared, “Our partnership with United Way has provided an amazing avenue for our team to get outside of our walls and volunteer in the communities we serve. United Way has helped us see our communities through a new perspective, learn about the community issues that impact our daily lives and the health of our customers, and then gives us ways to take action to create change.”

When companies invest time and focus on creating events and opportunities for team members to connect and give back, the return on investment greatly impacts the company culture, employee morale, and overall health of companies–and gives employees new opportunities to gain and sharpen those leadership skills.

Here are a few ways you can get started today!

• Host an employee campaign and raise your hand to be an Employee Campaign Coordinator

A workplace campaign can engage your employees in a collective purpose and allow for activities that can bring your employees together. People also have the opportunity to step into leadership roles to help make these events happen by volunteering as an Employee Campaign Coordinator. This opportunity gives people a chance to collaborate with others outside of their normal role, create connections, strengthen relationships and test out new skills– all while having the chance to get noticed by leaders in the community and serve as a role model for others at your company. One Employee Campaign Coordinator shared with us that the experience “allowed me to be more involved with things that both relate to my role within my own organization and things that are personally important to me. It has also provided a great opportunity to network with other individuals and organizations that share our same passion for helping our community.”

We hear from many companies how their United Way campaigns successfully bolster the morale of their employees because of the fun, virtual events they are able to host even though some or all of their workforce is currently working remotely.

Matt Leiseth, President of Hornbacher’s shared with our team that their United Way campaign “gives our employees the opportunity to rally one another. Year after year I see our employees enjoying the chance to be a part of something that is bigger than our store and our company. That excitement carries over into how they do their job every day.”

• Help coordinate a team volunteer activity in your workplace

Today more than ever, companies are recognizing how important it is for employees to feel connected not only to their employers but also to their teammates. Hosting an on-site volunteer activity gives employees a sense of camaraderie and connection through a meaningful experience. With more and more workplaces choosing a hybrid work model, volunteering can be a unique and important experience for team building, and United Way can help create an opportunity for you that meets your goals and enhances your team– whether they are working in the office, remotely or a mix of both. Our team is dedicated to inspiring and engaging members of our community in creating positive change for our neighbor’s most in need. In 2021, we were able to host 963 volunteers through unique volunteer opportunities.

• Host a Poverty Simulation

If you’re looking for an eye-opening, transformative, and unforgettable experience for your team, then we encourage you to reach out to United Way and help you coordinate a Poverty Simulation for your workplace. We provide a unique opportunity to experience what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family, working hard to survive month to month and succeed. The Simulation allows participants to gain a new perspective on the realities faced by low-income households, opportunities to learn more about local data and insights, what United Way is doing to support those in need, and ways you can help.

Here’s what others have said about experiencing the simulation:

“I was fortunate to be able to experience the Poverty Simulation through my job and it reminded me of the struggles our own employees face on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s easy to think, ‘I don’t know anyone living in poverty’ or that ‘these situations don’t directly impact me,’ but even at Wanzek some of our very own employees struggle with the things that the Poverty Simulation depicted.” -Poverty Simulation participant from Wanzek Construction

“Since going to the United Way Poverty Simulation, I’ve found myself more compassionate and patient with employees at my company and others in our community. We are all one step away from having an impactful moment turn our world upside down, the Poverty Simulation reminded me that people are living those struggles daily and my actions can influence a person’s life dramatically. I choose to be part of the difference and will pass these lessons onto my kids so they can do the same at home, in school and through their own friendships.” – Poverty Simulation participant

• Help a Child Learn to Read with Literacy Kits

If you and your coworkers are passionate about helping kids learn to read, then this volunteer opportunity is for you. Literacy and early learning are critical to ensuring kids are ready for kindergarten. Our United Way literacy kits were designed to focus on skills young children need when learning to read. As a volunteer, you help assemble kits so they are ready for eager learners across Cass and Clay counties. This activity can be done onsite at your office or coordinated at the United Way of Cass-Clay office.

• Support and Encourage a Local Senior Citizen Struggling with Hunger

This quick, hands-on volunteer opportunity is just the right way to bring joy and kindness and ensure people don’t go hungry. In collaboration with CAPLP, United Way rallies volunteers to help senior citizens struggling with isolation and safety concerns to ensure they have access to nutritional food and a friendly note delivered to their doors each month. Volunteers who have participated in the past have shared that they have enjoyed the great experience of being a friendly face for local senior citizens.

• Blankets for Good

At United Way, we help individuals and families stop the cycle of homelessness. For many parents who have experienced homelessness, moving in to a new home is exciting and emotional, but also stressful as they often don’t have the supplies needed to make their home feel like home, especially for their kids. You can help.

Fleece tie blankets are given to families with children so they can receive a warm, cheerful, and colorful blanket as they settle into their new home. This is a wonderful option for families, friends, or coworkers to volunteer together, and have fun in the process! People of all abilities and even kids can participate in this volunteer activity that can be done safely from your own home – a perfect option for workplaces where some or all of your employees are working remotely. United Way has all of the “how to” instructions for you to volunteer whenever and wherever it works for you right on our website at

• Volunteer on the Community Investment Review Panel

People like you can play an active role in determining how dollars donated to United Way are invested in the community. Each year, United Way invites donors to take the opportunity to be a part of this decision-making process while also learning about the impactful programs that are helping people every day in our community. Every year, local non-profits apply for grants from United Way to support their programs. With the help of our volunteers on the panel, these applications are thoughtfully evaluated to decide how best to invest the dollars that align with our United Way strategy and will have the greatest overall impact on our community.

No matter how you choose to volunteer or get involved in our community, when we serve together we create a better tomorrow for all of us and positively impact our teams and workplaces.

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