For the past several years, I have served as the Community Service Director for my Rotary Club, C-U Sunrise in Champaign. Part of my role includes working with the Volunteer Services Chair and Committee to develop some volunteer opportunities for our club members. This got me thinking about the many local businesses that contribute so much to our community and why it’s just plain ‘good business’ to participate.
Corporate philanthropy refers to the act of a for-profit company that donates some of their profits or resources to charity. This act may be on a local, regional or global scale or combination. Donations can come directly from the company or through a separate, company sponsored foundation or program.
Giving interests often complement or reflect the company’s business or management’s interests and are usually limited to programs that benefit their employees, their families, or communities where the company conducts business. Geography plays a major role in the way corporations give.
There are many ways a business can contribute to charitable organizations which include cash, volunteering and grants to name a few. However, cash donations are not the only type of support a corporation can offer. Businesses are increasingly providing in-kind services, like donated goods and services, use of corporate facilities and access to staff expertise.
So why should a company consider a philanthropic giving program?
Offering your company’s resources to charity provides many unseen but important benefits to your business. Corporate philanthropy generates goodwill and positive publicity for your company, attracts and retains top talent and creates various tax benefits for the corporation. In addition, corporate volunteer programs promote volunteerism for employees, enabling them to gain recognition within their communities and incentives for them to track volunteer hours.
Developing a corporate philanthropy program for your business may include:
Instead of just throwing money here and there, develop a deliberate strategy that directs your efforts for maximum impact.
Corporate philanthropy is a way to demonstrate corporate values that go beyond just making a profit.
Integrating your giving efforts across departments and locations can leverage more in the way of an impact in the community and strengthen internal cohesion. This is a great way to build teams among your staff.
A strategic giving program will help set your business apart from the competition. It provides a way to differentiate your product or services away from “just like everyone else” and that you are doing something remarkable that makes a difference.
Consumers like to know that the products and services they buy from a company, will invest their resources back into the community. This is often a turning point at the decision stage of purchase.
Community involvement and giving can help get attention from various forms of media. Attention a company may not otherwise be able to afford with traditional media spending, which creates a great positive buzz that surrounds your business and employees.
Creating a giving strategy program is not just feel good fluff, but it creates a win/win scenario that effects your company’s bottom line and the community. Limiting giving to a select few charitable institutions each year provides a more focused effort and greater impact of resources.
Employees feel good about being part of something larger than themselves. When they contribute to a cause, they feel pride in their company and themselves and are more likely to be more productive in their jobs. Employees want to work for companies “that care.”
A good strategy will be very clear on how to maximize every volunteer hour and every dollar to make the largest impact. Be clear and focused on the objective at hand.
Measure the results your corporate program provides and share this with stakeholders and employees. This in-turn provides incentives to continue to do more ‘good’ things.
In all, businesses that give back to their communities or to other worthwhile causes benefit from their collective efforts and provide an appreciative service to their community. If you don’t currently have a giving plan in place, I encourage you to begin the process of designing one that best fits the needs of your organization.