At DCH, TLC for community is part of the DNA

DCH Auto Group used to mandate that its dealerships contribute a set amount of profits to charity. If individual stores failed to meet targets, the South Amboy, N.J., retailer would debit the difference from their accounts.

Now CEO Susan Scarola sometimes has to ask the stores to rein it in. "Once in a while, we need to say, 'Hey, don't forget the business,'" Scarola told me.

The difference? In 2007, DCH started working with Students Against Destructive Decisions, or SADD. The dealership group's 27 stores work with high schools to support or even organize SADD chapters promoting safe driving. This month, DCH stores are offering free safety inspections for any vehicle operated by a teen.

The involvement at the store level has been so successful that SADD's leaders recently asked DCH to recommend a dealership group in Massachusetts that might be willing to emulate the DCH approach.

While worth doing, it's not easy, Scarola says: "You need to find a core of employees that absolutely want to be involved because you can't mandate this kind of involvement."

Any takers?