Building a Culture of Civic Leadership & Engagement
April 2, 2018 - By: SC&H Group
When it comes to inspiring volunteerism and connecting motivated people and businesses to community engagement, SC&H Group CEO Ron Causey has been at the forefront since he founded the firm in 1991. Whether it’s through organic growth, or strong community partners like Business Volunteers of Maryland, civic leadership is at the heart of the firm’s core values.
Recently announced as Business Volunteers of Maryland’s Chairman of the Board, Causey has used his business acumen and his passion for helping the community to make a true net impact in the region, and is now taking on a greater leadership role with the Maryland-based community engagement consulting organization, an expert matchmaker at connecting business with the causes they care most about.
In this episode of our Now to Next podcast, Ron talks about the roots of his community engagement passion, his new role with Business Volunteers of Maryland, and his larger vision for the civic footprint organizations will have on the community.
Welcome to SC&H Group’s Now to Next Podcast. I’m Colin Kendall and today we have a very special guest. It’s none other than SC&H’s fearless leader, Ron Causey, joining us to talk about the power of community engagement, how it’s been deeply ingrained in our culture since inception, and Ron’s latest venture with Business Volunteers of Maryland.
Q. Ron, we wanted to get started with a brief overview of why community engagement and civic leadership was as much a part of the foundational values of the firm when you started it 27 years ago as it is now.
Foundationally, our pillars are clients, colleagues, community. And so really to answer your question why, well it’s the right thing to do – is the most important answer to that. We have a unique skill set where we can help the community. The community needs us, so we have to be there. If the community is stronger, foundationally, businesses are stronger, people are stronger. That’s really kind of the most important mindset that we have today and in the past.
The other thing that we think about and we try to check as many boxes as we can is we want to have our employees engaged. We want them to be connected to our organization. We want them to be proud of the organization. The younger generation, the millennials, they really demand this, but, you know, frankly, we were doing this from the very get-go, so this has been an important part of our organization since the beginning of our firm.
We want to check those boxes and the boxes are as follows. We have employee engagement, we have leadership development. We take some of these community service projects, we’ll put some of our younger folks on them. It gives them a chance to lead. We get a chance to see them leading. We get a chance to see some people that, frankly, maybe they don’t lead as well as they could, maybe they need some development there. So we can work with them. And then we get to be surprised sometimes by people that we really didn’t expect to lead certain projects and then, all of a sudden, they take the bull by the horns and it’s really kind of a wonderful thing to see. Then we say to ourselves, “Gee, these could be future leaders within the organization.”
Community service, some of our leaders are on boards. That’s good training for themselves. We’re going to be on boards with other business leaders. We’re going to build relationships with other business leaders, next thing you know, we might do some business together. That has happened, that has happened often, and you don’t do that by design, but, by the same token, you understand that just as a function of building relationships and connections, that that invariably will happen.
Q. When you think back, it was a core value when we first started and, obviously, over the years, it’s taken on a very organic form, continues to evolve, and continues to grow. What have you identified as the key success factors to community service and a community engagement program growing? What will help them to put the foundation in, but then let it grow organically?
Well, one of our partners is Business Volunteers. So we always were doing good things. We were always volunteering, we were always supporting the community, but it was more of an ad hoc scenario. What Business Volunteers helped us to do was to think more strategically. So they came in, we talked about our civic engagement. They actually had us do a survey. So just simple common sense, a little survey of our people, we found out that 95% of them cared most about kids and education.
We listened to our people and Business Volunteers helped us to do that and then we devised more strategies around helping kids and education. So, for example, Junior Achievement. We have a significant investment in Junior Achievement. Not only are we funding money to bring Junior Achievement programs to charter, public, and parochial schools in Baltimore City, we are manning Biz Town and we have an entrepreneurship program – content developed by Junior Achievement, and delivered by SC&H employees in our office. It’s a 13-week program, I believe. So, again, trying to tailor, trying to take the next step and the next phase of community service and really be more strategic in that engagement, and that continues to this day. So I will sit here today and tell you that we’re starting to think about, while we have community service activities, which are impactful, which are consistent, which continue to happen over time, what we’re thinking about now is what can we do that’s truly transformational? One of the things we’re looking at is working on a pilot program in a Baltimore City public school, and right now, it’s perhaps an elementary school. How can we best connect with that one elementary school? And not just a day of service, not just help move some boxes, not just paint some walls, but how can we develop a pilot program for that school, where we are touching that school, not day in and day out, but significantly, and we bring our people to bear onto that situation, where over a period of time, we can look at that school and we can say that we had a real meaningful part in it and a major transformation? So, again, we’re thinking about the future and while we’ve done really good things up to this point, I think we’re starting to think that way too and really try to kind of get on the transformational side.
Q. Part of being transformational is making sure you have a sound strategy that you can lean on. Part of the things that have really made us successful here at SC&H is leaning on Business Volunteers of Maryland and our partnership with them.
You mentioned them before, you’re also now the Chairman of the Board for Business Volunteers, which is an awesome opportunity for you, but also an opportunity for all of us and for Business Volunteers. Could you give us a little background on that organization?
Sure. Well, we go back many years with the organization. Really, the easiest way to describe them would be that they’re expert matchmakers for businesses and the causes they care about. They help us to understand what causes we care about. Sometimes we may not know. So they’re very, very good at helping us strategically focus on those kinds of things. And they do many other things. They have a Pencil Program, which is, public education needs civic investment and leadership for Baltimore City public schools. They have a GIVE Program, which is about developing the next group of civic leaders, and preparing them for leading in the community. And then they have board matching. So, for example, at SC&H Group, 75% of our board positions, or somewhere around that number, are matches that have been made for our Director group by Business Volunteers. They will interview our folks, find out what are they passionate about, and they will connect and match them to the appropriate boards based upon where their passions lie. And it’s really, in a way, outsourcing that activity. We want to do the right thing, but we’re not as experienced. We don’t have the connections to the community organizations and not-for-profits that Business Volunteers does. They’re the ones that are helping us connect with those and they know who they are best.
Q. For a new organization that’s looking to increase their civic leadership and increase their community engagement, how do they get started with Business Volunteers? What would you recommend that they do first?
Well, Kelly Hodge-Williams is the director and I would highly recommend just getting together, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, a meeting in the office. She’ll come to you and, frankly, I’d be happy to attend with her. That’s really the best way because it’s really about listening and understanding what their particular business goals and objectives are. What do they hope to accomplish when it comes to civic engagement? You have to start with that.
And then, obviously, sometimes businesses want to understand what it really means, then we can share what we believe it means. And Business Volunteers and Kelly can share their perspectives which are significant and meaningful. And frankly, I think they have the best handle on that kind of consulting around civic engagement that you can find.
Q. I want to talk a little bit more about SC&H’s Day of Service, about our experience, the value that that day really provides, and also how we go about working with Business Volunteers to determine what organizations we work together with on that day. How does it impact them and what difference is it making?
The Day of Service for SC&H is really about one day to say, “This is important.” And while we have a meaningful impact on that one day and we do some great things for some great organizations – whether it’s cleaning up at SPCA or whatever the case may be, it really is just to celebrate community service from my perspective for that one day, knowing that there are many other days during the year where we’re heavily involved in community service type activities. We think it’s important to say, “This is important. We’re shutting down. Let’s come together. Let’s team build.” It’s a great team-building exercise, which is another reason we do it, and it’s fun. So we go out and work together, work with each other, work with some people that we haven’t worked with before in different service lines. So that’s good. And then, a lot of times, folks get together in happy hour afterwards to celebrate. So it’s a good way to recognize that one day of the year.
Q: What’s next for you over the next two, three years as it relates to your seat as the Chairman on the Board for Business Volunteers? What are you looking ahead to? We’ve talked a little bit about what we’re looking to do with the Baltimore City schools, but in your new leadership role with Business Volunteers, what are your priorities? What are you looking to accomplish with the other fellow board members?
I want the board to be engaged and we have actually already experienced that. We’ve met with board members, we’ve gotten together in small groups, we’ve listened and discussed on what can we do better and we’ve gotten some great ideas around those conversations. So we really want, first and foundationally, the board to be more engaged.
One of the ways to get the board more engaged is to listen to what their ideas are – instead of a board meeting being about A, B, and C, how about it be about what our mission is, what’s driving that mission? And then so we had a partner come in and describe the impact that Business Volunteers has had on them right off the bat. So listening is, I think an important part of board engagement.
We also need to expand the board. We have a relatively small board and if we’re going to achieve our mission, if we’re going to continue to move forward and grow, we need to make sure that the service offerings can continue to grow and expand and really have a tremendous impact that we’ve had in the community already. If that’s going to continue, we need to expand the board and we need to expand business members and partnerships with businesses. We need to do both of those things because, frankly, we need to grow the revenue a little bit which allows us to execute on the vision.
Thanks for being here. We appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure to have you on the podcast. If anyone would like to learn more about SC&H Group and the work that we’re doing within the community, please visit www.schgroup.com. And with that, thanks for listening to today’s episode of SC&H’s Now to Next Podcast. Take care and have a great day!