B:CIVIC connected with GroundFloor Media’s Founder and Chief Cultural Officer Laura Love earlier this year to discuss embedding corporate social responsibility and employee engagement into the DNA of your company from the beginning.
GroundFloor Media (GFM) and its sister agency CenterTable navigate the blurred lines between marketing, public relations and digital advertising – online and off. The GFM team creates and manages messages from inception through an intermediary to the end consumer, while the CenterTable team creates messages that engage directly with the end consumer. Both agencies work with a wide range of clients – from food and beverage to health and wellness to technology and telecom – who consistently offer innovative and creative opportunities to reach new audiences. GFM has been recognized seven times by Outside magazine as one of the top 10 Best Places to Work in America and is the longest-running company nationwide to be listed in the top 10. In addition, GFM was named a Certified B Corporation in 2016 by the global nonprofit B Lab. The certification recognizes companies meeting the highest global standards for corporate transparency, accountability and social and environmental performance. In 2019, GFM and CenterTable were honored with The Civic 50 Colorado award, recognizing 50 Colorado-based companies that set the standard for superior corporate citizenship in our state.
GroundFloor Media has said, “We believe that companies, as well as individuals, must be good tenants of the world.” Tell us a little bit about that decision in making social responsibility and philanthropy a part of GroundFloor Media’s strategic plan.
Laura Love: I started this company in the middle of the dotcom bust in 2001, right before 9/11, and when I first moved to Colorado, I actually didn’t know very many people here at all. What I found is that Colorado, as a community, is very giving, supportive and welcoming, especially for those of us transplants. I started the agency in the basement of my home in Boulder.
And, without a lot of contacts in the area, one of the ways that I decided to meet my community is to go to nonprofits and offer my services for any of their nonprofit needs. The people in the community really embraced, welcomed and helped me start the business. It just felt like the natural way for us to give back – we made community part of our strategic DNA.
B:CIVIC: A lot of people start a business and then they figure out how to give back. When it’s ingrained in your culture like that, from the beginning, you can tell why you’ve had so much success.
LL: When you’re starting a business, one of the best ways to feel more confident is to realize that you have value that you can provide to others who may not be in that same position. By offering services to organizations that weren’t necessarily in a position to afford PR or marketing, it was actually selfish — it made me feel better.
B:CIVIC: Can you share with us GroundFloor Media’s community involvement efforts?
LL: Over the past 20 years, we’ve certainly refined our efforts, but we’ve historically always given back at least 15% of our profits, either through nonprofit rates, through pro bono work or through our giving-back program. As we continue to grow and have more resources, we’re able to do more. When we look at our overall community impact, it’s in three specific areas.
The first area is one that we’ve had since the early days, which is our “Get Giving” Program. Our Get Giving Program includes opportunities for our team members to have “Get Giving” days of service. Those are scattered throughout the year and they are really about what our team members are most interested in from a personal standpoint. For example, we have decorated the cottages of the Denver Children’s Advocacy Center. We have built houses with Habitat for Humanity. We have helped decorate bags and deliver meals for Project Angel Heart. We have provided stockings that the Children at Tennyson Center can open on Christmas morning.
It’s an opportunity to do two things: one, it’s for us to do some team building as an organization and the second is to do that in a way that’s meaningful for our community.
We have 42 team members, primarily located in Colorado, although we do have team members who are in other states. That actually leads me to our second big bucket: the Get Grounded Volunteer Program. Our Get Grounded Volunteer Program is for team members who volunteer their time. It can be at any organization of their choosing and we give them four hours off each month to go volunteer at nonprofits, schools or any other 501(c)3 organization. At the end of the year, our organization matches all volunteer hours by donating $10 per hour, up to $400 per team member, per calendar year. Since the inception of that program, we’ve given over $36,000 and about 2,800 volunteer hours — and that’s through any nonprofit that our team members will support.
Our third program, which is a third pillar of our community impact, is the one that I am probably the most passionate about and that is our Get Grounded Foundation. In 2015, we decided to formalize what we’ve been doing for years, but to do it in a way that is an established, private 501(c)3. We provide community grants to new, innovative, entrepreneurial programs. We provide the seed money and that seed money goes to an existing nonprofit in the Denver area in either child abuse or neglect, childhood hunger relief or youth behavioral health.
We’ve given out over $158,000 to nonprofits since 2015 to support some of those programs to help them get something off the ground floor.
B:CIVIC: Why did you choose to support nonprofits that are supporting at-risk youth?
LL: I started this business when I was pregnant with my first child. Just realizing how fortunate and how privileged she was going to be to come up in a life where we could support her and put food on the table and give her an education and resources — and there are so many incredible children out there that, of no fault of their own, don’t have that same opportunity. A lot of my teammates are working parents, and it just felt very aligned with all of our personal values to be able to give back that way.
B:CIVIC: Most of your team is local to Colorado, but you do have some remote employees as well. What’s the approach that you use to get your employees involved in your community efforts?
LL: When we hire, we have a very interesting hiring process and some might call it very non-traditional, but we look at how a potential team member might align with our core values. As we look at these potential team members to join our team, we want them to be there for a very long time. We have an attrition rate that hovers at about 3% annually. It does become a question that we ask during the hiring process. It’s not that difficult. Once somebody is on board, they embrace this philosophy from the beginning.
We are fortunate to be able to choose our team members really carefully and likewise, we want them to choose into our environment as well. We call it “talent-tude,” which are those mad skills complemented by a great outlook on both your work and your life. We love to have fun and we’re here to do exceptional work for our clients, so if we can find people that have that same feeling and they’re not afraid to leave their ego at the door, they tend to stick around for a long time.
B:CIVIC: Can you share with our community a little bit about Get Golden?
LL: Get Golden is a handbook that we provide to all of our team members and it really talks about our values, our beliefs, our attitudes, our behaviors and how we treat one another. That is truly the secret sauce that makes us who we are. And equally as important as how we treat one another is how we’re showing up for our clients.
We talk about the Golden Rule. It’s really, really simple and yet it’s so profound.
We work with a leadership coach to do Emergenetics for all of our team members. It’s rooted in the fact that who we are today is the emergence of our behavior, our genetic makeup and our life experiences. It’s how you think and how you behave, and so there isn’t a right or wrong way for any of it, but it does allow us to look at each one of our team members and say, are they analytical or structural? Do they live more in a conceptual world or are they social?
We acknowledge everyone thinks and behaves differently. We respect how we behave and think and how each of us can approach one another and eliminate conflict by using our profiles. We incorporate this into our culture.
B:CIVIC: When it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and employee engagement, what do you think has been GroundFloor Media’s most successful initiative to date?
LL: I have to say, I don’t think it’s just one thing. It is the holistic view of CSR that really has set us apart as an agency, but more important, has allowed us as a very small business to incorporate giving and CSR into our values, into our DNA and into the values that we have internally, as well as externally.
So that’s the first thing: How do we have an offering that teaches people how to do this? Then, it’s how do we live this feeling of giving back within the agency walls. Without all of those components, I’m not sure that we would have the strength around the type of systems that we do.
B:CIVIC: You have recently launched a new podcast to support companies and individuals in making a positive impact, Good & Grounded. Tell us a little about the goals of the podcast and the kinds of stories you have and plan to feature.
LL: As an extension of our recent Doing My Part Colorado effort that we rolled out to support Colorado nonprofits during this pandemic, we are interviewing dynamic, passionate and grounded local leaders who are impacting our community during this time of uncertainty. Each episode of Good & Grounded is focused on one critical issue that deserves our attention in our ever-changing world. These interviews are short, conversational and very human. We have interviewed a dozen CEOs on topics ranging from the rise of domestic violence and child abuse to the impact this pandemic is having on the restaurant industry to the state of corporate social responsibility during COVID-19. We have talked to Erin Pulling, CEO of Food Bank of the Rockies, about food insecurity, Deirdre Johnson, the CEO of the Center for African American Health, on how Black Americans are dying from this pandemic at three times the rate of their white peers, Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber, on the road to economic recovery, and Pat Meyers who led Colorado’s efforts to procure PPE and all of the complex challenges of the global supply chain. We always end by asking our guests, “What one good thing can we do right now?” We continue to look for powerful leaders to help us bring critical issues to life, so if your readers know of strong CEOs, please send me a note.
B:CIVIC: Before we close, we want to thank you for your leadership in developing and advocating for the Colorado Companies Uniting Against Racism initiative. The primary pillars of the commitment are to listen, learn and lead to combat systemic racism. Why is this pledge important to you and your company? Is there a unique role small businesses can play in leading this change?
LL: As communication professionals and small business owners, we have a responsibility to listen, learn and lead while working toward a greater understanding of the existing societal structures and unconscious biases that inform what we do. By working toward that understanding, we are less likely to produce work that creates damage through our communications. Ultimately, gaining a greater understanding of these things will help us be more compassionate individuals, as well as effective and aware communicators and business leaders. The bottom line is that we are human and know that we have a lot to learn. We will make mistakes along the way. When we make mistakes, we pledge to own them and continue to learn and improve. As a small business, we can make smaller steps and encourage other small business to join the Colorado Companies Uniting Against Racism initiative as well as the Inclusive Economy Movement. As Barbara Mikulski said, “Each one of us can make a difference but together we can make change.”