Corporate philanthropy can boost a company’s credibility with consumers, but if the company isn’t working to create social impact within their own framework, donations can seem hollow and hypocritical. Unfortunately, many corporate leaders have a narrow view of what drives employee satisfaction, emphasizing the importance of a living wage or competitive wages over the general wellbeing of their employees.
Similarly, some corporate leaders mistakenly believe that employee values and interests align perfectly with those of the corporation, inevitably leaving their workforce in the dust while focusing their efforts on external stakeholders.
While investing in charitable causes can help you to boost company image, investing in internal social responsibilities can help boost workplace productivity, increase company earnings, and even make an environmental and social impact. Company leaders must take on a holistic approach to corporate wellness and create programs to help promote employee health, happiness, and achievement.
If you feel your organization could benefit from putting more emphasis on internal social responsibilities, your first step will be to actually consult those that exist internally. Your staff is going to be the most important source of advice, feedback, and insight throughout the process of building an internal CSR program, since they will be the ones most directly and immediately impacted by the changes you eventually make.
If you have never had any initiatives to bring employees into a conversation surrounding their own working environment and support from the corporate level, you likely discover issues or barriers within the framework of your organization that inhibit employee growth and success. Be sure to include employees from every level of the company to ensure you have well-rounded responses and a diverse set of opinions.
It is not uncommon for there to be issues at lower levels that go unnoticed by management or executives for years. Many employees become accustomed to picking up slack where corporate policies and pre-set procedures fail to create efficiency, and will rarely mention issues to people further up the management chain for fear of being seen as a troublemaker or an insubordinate employee. Because of this, it is vital to make a clear and welcoming space for your staff to speak their mind, and to share insights that they are uniquely qualified to provide.
Assess Corporate Values
As mentioned, there are many businesses that focus heavily on representing their corporate values through external social and environmental investment, but neglect to assess how they can enforce those same values internally. Take some time to reflect on the values your company is built on, the organizations you support, and whether you extend the same concern for your employees as you do for communities that affect your external stakeholders.
If, for example, you have donated to organizations working to provide better healthcare and health facilities to the community in which your business is located, you should consider how you have handled employee health benefits and access. How have you helped to promote the health and wellness of your staff? Have you invested in offering high-quality insurance policies? Do you offer healthy food and drink options? Do you have strict sick-leave policies, or do you encourage employees to take time to rest and recover from sickness, fatigue, and injury?
Knowing how well your projected values align with your internal practices can be a good jumping-off point for choosing which areas to focus on first
Set Realistic Goals
When first examining how your company could improve its internal social responsibilities, it can be tempting to try to tackle every problem at once. While it is good to be open to making improvements in as many areas as possible, it is also important to set realistic goals and deadlines for implementing new programs. Choose two or three I-CSR initiatives to spearhead each year, and allow for flexibility where timelines are concerned.
Try to avoid being too specific when you begin to choose which internal social responsibility initiatives you will support, and aim instead to choose larger initiatives with more potential for diverse participation and policies. For instance, an initiative to improve staff involvement with corporate philanthropy could include offering employees incentives to volunteer with specific organizations or allowing them to take part in choosing future organizations to support.
Accept Feedback & Measure Results
As you roll out new initiatives, it is important to continually monitor their progress and impact by both assessing the performance of the company and by seeking out feedback from your staff. If you are truly making change at every level and working to support initiatives that improve the working lives of all employees, you must be open to both criticism and approval and allow for staff to freely express how they would improve or alter current initiatives.
Once you have begun taking on more internal social responsibility, it is important to not allow your company to fall back on old habits. It is easy to say ‘good enough’ and call it quits after a few basic changes to your company, but those organizations that create success from the inside out are those that invest in the interests of their employees. As you and your team learn and grow, there will always be new ways to explore internal social responsibility and to realign corporate values and culture to fit more closely with the knowledge you have built, so be prepared to welcome constant evolution.
Learn more about corporate responsibility on our blog when you visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors online.
As a marketing professional, I have been on both sides of the same equation. As a corporate leader for a global company, I made decisions to ensure our local community was supported by making charitable contributions to worthy nonprofits. Later, when I worked for the nonprofit Kelly Cares Foundation, this arrangement flipped. I was the one asking corporate executives for charitable contributions to my nonprofit. Now, as the Director of Marketing at Gibson, seeing both sides of the equation and matching those experiences with our own set of priorities has me seeing the whole arrangement from a new vantage point.
As soon as I joined the Gibson team, I asked myself: Are we fully embracing corporate giving? I knew right away, Gibson is an incredibly generous company. It’s very clear we have a culture of servant leadership from the top down and our donations and time prove this. But what difference is it making? Should we have a plan for giving, just like we have a plan for every other part of our company? Of course, the answer is yes.
Research shows nearly 90% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a company that supports activities to improve the community. With a statistic like that, do employers really have a choice when it comes to giving and their social reputation? I can enthusiastically say no! But this doesn’t mean throwing together a disjointed giving program that exists outside the bounds of your company’s primary goals.
Does your organization have its core values clearly outlined? At Gibson our core values are genuinely our fundamental beliefs, making it a natural starting point to establish a giving strategy. Your core values should align right along with your corporate giving dollars and time. Next time a nonprofit asks your company for a gift, the first thing you can do is see how partnering with that nonprofit fits into your core values.Leadership must buy into the benefits that come with being a good community steward. Establishing your company as a leader in corporate giving comes with its own set of challenges. You can start today by asking yourself: What is the motivation for my corporate giving? Recruitment, retention, relationships, making an impact? These are all great reasons to take part in giving.
In 2019, Gibson embarked on a path to take our corporate social investment very seriously. We partnered with Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors to measure and monitor our social impacts through surveys, auditing, research, and expertise. Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors sat with us to create our baseline and forge a clear path for future goals that are aligned with our priorities and culture.
During the process we found giving back doesn’t stop at sending in checks and sponsoring tables at charity events but extends into how we are treating our team members and valuing their time and efforts in and out of the office. When the numbers rolled in, we were astounded. When you read through our first-ever impact report or watch the impact report video, both produced in conjunction with Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors, you’ll see we found our company was more generous than we ever even knew. In fact, corporate cash contributions coupled with fundraising, volunteer service, and employee gifts added up to an astounding $869K community investment across all locations last year alone. We also found Gibson has invested in 91 nonprofits and our employees volunteer in 138 different nonprofits throughout Michigan and Indiana. This is resounding evidence the communities we live in need us and rely on us to be there for them in more ways than we ever imagined.
Gibson made a strategic decision—we want to be known as a leader in corporate giving. Looking for ways to innovate through giving, we listened to our employees and offered them the opportunity to volunteer at community nonprofits during the workday. This led to larger groups wanting to participate, allowing us to make an even greater impact while encouraging teams to grow together. In the end, is there really a better way to motivate employees or recruit new talent than being able to show the real impact we are making on those in need, our community, and one another?
Equally as exciting, I will be working with our current nonprofit partners to get creative. Instead of us supporting that annual dinner with just tickets to an event, we are asking the nonprofits to schedule tours and volunteer opportunities with our employees. We hope this will boost overall engagement amongst our team members and create a peer-to-peer bond that otherwise may never have existed. We are confident this will promote philanthropy among employees beyond what we give here as a company at Gibson.
We encourage you to join us in this endeavor into strategic corporate philanthropy. Be bold and dive deep! As you begin, keep these six quick tips from our partner Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors in mind.
THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF CORPORATE GIVING
If you want to dive into strategic corporate philanthropy, the first thing you need to do is consider your motivation. Is it networking and to generate new leads? To support causes important to you as an executive or your entire team? Is it to position your company as a good corporate citizen because you think it will help you in some other way? It is because it just feels like the right thing to do? There’s no right or wrong answer here. But asking yourself the “why questions” will lead you to the right strategy.
Whatever your motivation is, when nearly 90% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a company that supports activities to improve society, then you need to integrate corporate philanthropy into your marketing and sales strategy. (REFERENCE: Creel, Timothy (2012). “How Corporate Social Responsibility Influences Brand Equity.” Management Accounting Quarterly.)
You should also consider the benefits corporate giving has on your staff. Recruitment and retention will become increasingly more dependent on whether your company can give employees the sense their job is making an impact in some way.
No one can tell you how much time or money you should be giving. This is a decision for your executive team and completely dependent on your core values, size, revenue, and business goals. What we can say is that you need to make sure you are being strategic about every effort you make. If you do not take the steps to plan and have a calculated purpose for every donation and volunteer hour, these resources could very likely be wasted.
Once you know your WHY, the HOW will be more straightforward. Engaging in philanthropy as a HR recruitment and retention tool might lead you to surveying staff on their preferences and capacity. While engaging in philanthropy as a marketing effort might lead you to analyzing charitable giving opportunities as a path to developing relationships that will lead to sales.
Contact Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors today to get started on crafting a strategy today.
Written by Alina Dizik for Chicago Booth. Published June 11, 2018.
A company, if it clearly conveys during the recruiting process its intent to benefit society, can see lasting benefits, research finds. University of Chicago’s Daniel Hedblom, Queen’s University’s Brent R. Hickman, and List used data to track how advertising a company’s support of a nonprofit impacted recruiting and work quality.
To do this, they performed an experiment that doubled as a business venture, which involved launching a data-collection consulting company and hiring 170 part-time workers in 12 US cities. The initial job descriptions they posted were identical, but the researchers tweaked the job details in later emails. When people inquired about positions, they received an email saying the work would consist of either data entry or data entry to benefit underprivileged children. The researchers also varied pay rates, offering some applicants $15 an hour and others $11.
When hired, employees were assigned data-entry tasks that involved looking at Google Street View. Some were asked to tally the number of broken windows or potholes in each image, which produced data that was used in some cases to help identify safe areas near schools where administrators were trying to help students avoid gang violence, and in other cases to benefit Uber. (List is a consultant for Uber.)
Workers who expressed interest in a data-collection company, created as part of a study, were more likely to apply when the position’s social impact was advertised. 1
Helping schoolkids involved a social impact—and had a big effect on recruiting. When that social mission was mentioned in emails, the company saw 26 percent more people interested in the job, comparable to the 33 percent bump the company saw when it offered $15 an hour. Advertising jobs that had a social mission improved the pool of applicants, with no additional, and potentially expensive, recruiting tactics required. “This generation of young workers is more compelled than previous generations to do social good,” List says.
People who accepted a job originally advertised as CSR-driven were also more effective at work. Employees in the CSR group were more productive, analyzing images in a shorter amount of time than other workers. And while all employees could work any number of hours over a 10-day period, those in the CSR group worked longer hours.
Both women and men were affected by corporate responsibility, but in different ways. Women were 40 percent more productive in accurately analyzing Google Street View images as a result of CSR and worked an hour more per day. Men produced higher-quality results but did not increase the number of images that they analyzed. “Together, these insights suggest that CSR draws out higher output from women and higher quality from men,” the researchers write. “CSR should not be viewed as a necessary distraction from a profit motive, but rather as an important part of profit maximization similar to other non-pecuniary incentives.” Customers and employees, List assures, will still view CSR as authentic, even if it is recognized to boost profits.
While the results suggest that CSR can have strong, positive effects, List recommends companies keep the findings on moral licensing in mind and monitor employee behavior. He notes that because so much behavior is driven subconsciously, simply making employees aware of the tendency to couple good actions with bad could counteract the bias.
Motivations matter. They are what drives a company’s Corporate Community Investment. The LBG Framework enables community activities to be classified according to three categories of motivation.
This analysis provides an indication of the strategic nature of the community program, shows the degree to which it is aligned with wider business goals and helps companies understand the extent to which they are driving their contributions OR are being driven by external demands and circumstances.
The three categories of motivation identified in the LBG Framework are:
A general response to a charity request for funds
Charitable gifts tend to be reactive in that they respond to appeals for help either directly from charities or through requests from employees (including matched funding or payroll giving) or in response to short-term or one-off events.
They tend to be ad hoc or one-off contributions, made because it’s ‘the right thing to do’, not because of any strategic aim or anticipated return to the company. Some might refer to this as traditional philanthropy or grantmaking.
Targeted investment, long term partnership, major commitment of resources
Community investments tend to be more proactive and strategic than charitable gifts. They can center on a smaller number of larger-scale, longer-term projects and are often run as a partnership with, rather than a donation to, a community organization.
These projects address the social issue(s) that the company has identified as being relevant to both the company and the community in which it operates. They will often be: linked to a wider community strategy; be measured; and be expected to help protect the long-term corporate interests and reputation of the business.
Primary purpose PR/ marketing, business development, or promotion for competitive advantage
Commercial initiatives in the community are business related activities, usually undertaken by departments outside the community function (e.g. marketing, R&D), to support the success of the company and promote its brand and other policies, that also deliver community benefit.
The most common example of this is cause-related marketing. These are primarily marketing campaigns but involve a contribution from the company to a charitable cause.
Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors is a social enterprise devoted to Driving impactful and innovative change through philanthropy. Based in South Bend, Indiana, USA.