When a booming business makes giving back harder

As Brian Carlson’s business grew, he shifted his community outreach from volunteerism to financial support
When growth cut into the time Brian Carlson could give to his community, he found other ways to give back.


Not long after Green Landscape Solutions in Boulder was founded, CEO Brian Carlson decided he wanted to take action to support his community.

“Years ago, probably 15 years ago, I wanted to start giving back to our community,” Carlson said. Back then, the new landscape design/build firm was smaller and business was slower.

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“We would do a community give-back project every year,” he said. “A big group of local churches would do something called ShareFest, where they would work at schools within Boulder Valley School District.”

For the next several years, Carlson said, “we would go out and rehab playgrounds, work on landscape projects at, primarily, elementary schools; just doing whatever they had coordinated that they needed to get done.”

Around the same time, Carlson and his team started working with the Emergency Family Assistance Association, a non-profit in Boulder that provides families in crisis with critical support, including education, employment, food assistance, health care and housing.

[Related: Feeding bodies and souls]

While community support was important to Carlson, the business was growing beyond the point where he and his team could volunteer their time.

“In 2011, 2012, things started getting a lot busier,” he said. “There were a couple of years where we didn’t do anything because we didn’t have the manpower. We didn’t have the time.”

That grated on Carlson, and he started looking for ways he could support his neighbors without spreading himself—and his workers—too thin.

“It was literally driving me nuts not feeling like I was doing much for the community,” he said. The Sister Carmen Community Center is a resource center that operates a food bank and thrift store to support families in need. The business is a financial supporter of Sister Carmen, and encourages employees to find their own ways to give back on Colorado Gives Day.

“With the staffing shortage, we can’t get all of our work done, but with the boom in construction we can give money,” Carlson said. In fact, last year he expanded his support efforts to OUR Center, a Longmont-based nonprofit that connects people in need with various resources.

Carlson said his workers enjoy being part of a bigger cause.

“They enjoy knowing that as a company we try to support our community and we’re in this for something bigger and something more important than just making a profit,” he said. “We also want to be members of our community and support the less fortunate.”

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