Corporate philanthropy is not dead. In fact, according to the annual Giving in Numbers: 2012 Edition report, issued by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) in association with the Conference Board, corporate philanthropy is making a comeback. With 60% of companies reporting increased giving levels in 2011 from 2009, the year companies reported the biggest retreat in corporate giving, it appears that companies are giving more. But are they giving more or are they giving better and are they doing so in ways that serve as an extension of the corporate brand and experience?
These days, more and more corporations seem to be honing their giving efforts around making more focused, strategic decisions on how, where and why they give, and how these efforts can and should deepen meaningful connections with consumers and other key constituents. For example, some companies, like ConAgra Foods, Hasbro and HomeGoods, have recently developed strategic platforms that align their company’s mission and business goals to their CSR efforts, uniting all their giving endeavors under one powerful brand umbrella. As such, it seems that companies are now realizing that when developing a corporate giving platform, a more thoughtful, comprehensive and streamlined approach to philanthropy is better. Here’s why:
- A more concentrated giving program, focused on fewer, or even a single issue, has more of an impact (fewer grants at higher amounts). Through a five year, $5 million plus commitment– the company’s largest single philanthropic commitment–Hasbro has provided founding support and leadership for generationOn, the youth enterprise of Points of Light, to inspire a global youth service movement igniting the power of all kids to make their mark on the world. With the help of Hasbro, generationOn has engaged more than 600,000 youth in acts of service with well over a million young people participating in service and volunteerism since the launch of the organization in late 2010.
- Employee engagement not only advances corporate support of causes in the local community where the company does business, but is also a good business strategy. Volunteer opportunities raise morale and help to develop leadership skills, ultimately increasing employee satisfaction. By engaging employees through volunteerism and establishing matching gift programs as part of their company culture, companies are creating meaningful programs that are seen as employee benefits. Microsoft has successfully done this by organizing group activities, offering paid time off for employees to volunteer and matching volunteer hours with a financial contribution to the nonprofit chosen by the volunteering employee. The company has been running their U.S. employee engagement program since 2005, encouraging employees to use their individual expertise to meet the needs of the local community, resulting in over one million hours of time. And when Microsoft announced their volunteer program in Egypt, employee satisfaction increased from 61 percent to 91 percent. The most successful companies are the ones that create a “culture of service” making bigger efforts to align their corporate socialanthropy platforms with the values of their employees.
- Corporate philanthropy is the right thing to do, and can also be a business driver and valuable strategy for future revenue growth. Consumers want and expect businesses to do good. According to the goodpurpose® 2012 study, 87% of global consumers believe that businesses need to place at least equal weight on a society’s interests as on business interests and 76% believe it is still acceptable for brands to support causes and make money at the same time. Almost 73% would switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supported a good cause. Corporate philanthropy increases consumer loyalty, builds stronger relationships with the community, improves name recognition and reputation, boosts employee satisfaction and helps with recruitment and retention, all which in turn can boost revenue.
- Corporate philanthropy is a way for companies to address the engagement economy. Consumers want to connect with companies and brands on emotional and social levels. Corporations are picking up on the fact that consumers not only want to buy and recommend products associated with causes they care about, but they want to be involved in the giving efforts. Starbucks created interactive web experiences to engage their customers and worked with them to make positive changes in their communities. Companies like Pepsi and Chase have engaged consumers via social media by asking them to vote on where they donate their money. Others, like Tom’s Shoes, have made engaging consumers a part of their business model with buy one give one.
Even though corporations are steadily increasing their giving, with 40% expected to give more this year than they did last year, very few expect that the giving will rise by more than 10%. Companies today are still affected by the economic downturn and faced with countless decisions regarding their business practices, from cutting costs and increasing efficiency, to managing the engagement economy and embracing creative destruction.
But, even with all of the challenges businesses face, corporate philanthropy doesn’t have to fall by the wayside. In fact, as companies look to creatively destruct to tear down the old to begin anew with clearer pathways to innovation, corporate philanthropy should not be overlooked. In fact, if approached strategically, it can be among the most valuable drivers of transforming communication into an innovation that can assist in improving reputation and overall performance. By applying creativity and innovation, corporations can redefine how and why they give, making their giving efforts more meaningful, impactful and lucrative for their business, their employees, their consumers, their communities and their world—while too deepening the levels of connection they elicit in our new engagement driven world .