The Value of Team Service Days

Published On: July 25, 2022Categories: Community Service, Founder 2 Founder, Teams

Founder: Andy Fowler
Company: Nutshell
Stage: Growth
Founded: 2010
Industry: SaaS

Nutshell’s volunteerism and charitable giving have really only begun in the past two years. As a 12-year-old elder startup, that’s pretty deep into “better late than never” territory.

For our first few years, we were an inwardly-focused seed-stage startup, and our community involvement was limited to things like Ann Arbor’s green commute challenge. Following a fundraise, much of our energy went toward activities that brought our growing team together (trips to Detroit, offsites up north).

We added “Charitable contribution” to our P&L in April 2020, as we were all staring down the covid lockdowns, feeling helpless. We asked our team to suggest organizations that were making our community better, and with very little rigamarole, we put them on a form, asked the team to vote, and wrote $5,000 in checks. Two months later, we did the same thing. 

It showed us how much our team wanted to give back locally. People spoke about their personal experiences with Ypsi Meals on Wheels, Breakfast at St. Andrews, and Food Gatherers.

Probably the most crucial step to implementing a volunteerism habit was hiring a head of operations who—in addition to the 100 things he was hired for—was motivated to make this happen.

We’ve committed to an activity each quarter. We try to find organizations where we can triple-dip:

  1. Provide real, meaningful local service
  2. Add a multiplier by contributing cash, in addition to our time
  3. Participate in an activity where our team builds relationships with each other

Our head of ops, Andy Jensen, leads the program. He’ll periodically bring a collection of volunteer options for feedback to an informal DEI gathering. Perhaps one day, we’ll zoom in on an organization and stick with it, but for now, we’re still expanding our list.

One of the more meaningful outcomes of this has been the sense of connection to southeast Michigan. Nutshell is a software business with 3,600 far-flung customers. With two years of Zoom connections, everything about work can feel pretty … virtual.

When you show up to a real place, roll up your real sleeves, and apply some elbow grease to brighten up the community, it does wonders for your mental health. Even though our work is global, we live, eat, go to school, party, bike and run around our corner of Michigan. 

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