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Is your organization interested in setting up a corporate philanthropy program? Creating a successful program can be trickier than it sounds, however worthwhile in the long term. Jump over to Submittable’s free guide, How to Start and Build an Effective CSR Program, to learn how to get your corporate philanthropy program up and running today.
Corporate philanthropy, corporate giving and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are becoming more important each day—companies that haven’t given back in the past are taking a hard look at how to change, while companies that do have a history of philanthropy are ramping up their programs and making social responsibility more of a thoughtful process and a priority.
Why is corporate philanthropy suddenly on the minds of executives and higher on the list of must-haves at companies of all sizes?
Simply put, giving means getting back—and getting back in a lot of ways. Some business decisions are win-wins, but corporate philanthropy is often a win-win-win-win. Everyone involved benefits, including:
Your bottom line
Your clients and customers
When you can supplement what your company pays with tax deductions and smart PR, a well-run and efficient CSR program strengthens your business and genuinely makes the world a better place. It’s one of the best things your business could do for itself, and for those it represents.
Benefits for everybody (including you)
Most people know the two biggest benefits of corporate social responsibility: It improves your brand and it helps others. But a closer look reveals that there are many more benefits—and that they boost everyone around you.
Increased sales. Customers, especially those in the younger generations, like to support businesses that have hearts.
Customer loyalty. Studies show that even if a product costs a little more, a significant number of customers will stick with brands that do good. If two products cost the same, almost everyone will buy the product tied with philanthropy.
Better recruiting. Not only customers will note your actions. You’ll get a larger and better pool of job applicants because people want to work for places that care.
Happier employees that stick around. Your employees will benefit, too, especially if you involve them in the giving. They’ll be more productive, and they’ll want to stay.
Better company culture. When companies have a clear mission and engage with their communities, everyone who works there feels better and is more engaged.
A bigger network. Giving means reaching out, meeting people, and connecting with your community. It’s an amazing way to make new connections, learn about your community, and get new ideas.
Obviously, the biggest benefit is taking funds you’ve made with your successes and giving back to your community. Everything else is icing on the cake.
Brainstorming strategies for community outreach
When considering starting a corporate philanthropy program, you should identify what kinds of philanthropic pursuits best match the existing corporate culture of your business. Examine your mission statement, your products and services, and think about how you can most meaningfully give back.
Be sure not to have this conversation alone: Involving your employees, your customers and the community can ensure that your philanthropic actions will have maximum impact and meaning.
Corporate giving comes in an almost limitless number of ways. Here are just a few approaches you can consider.
Scholarships and fellowships
One of the most straightforward strategies involves creating scholarships or fellowships. It can be as simple as designing a digital application form, then assembling a committee to review qualified applicants and award available resources.
A way to ease into this process is to work with application management software that allows you to design basic aspects of your scholarship program online. Immediately, you’ve got something available for those seeking opportunities to find with a quick search engine query.
Along the way, ensure you’re doing everything in a way that encourages tax deduction and put in place processes that involve bias or preferential treatment to employees or their relatives (good software can help you achieve these goals, too).
You might also consider creating fundraising campaigns for local charities. You can invite donations from the community as well as your own employees, and you can match donations. You can be philanthropic by giving certain organizations free access to your products or services, and you may even be like Bill Gates and start your own foundation. There are quite a few options available, and they don’t always have to be traditional.
Community works, like the installation of an ice-skating rink or the establishment of a new park, are another fantastic option to consider, especially for local businesses who serve the communities where they are located.
A good strategy is to consider the needs in your community, as well as what kind of budget you can bring to the table. Think about what you can give that will most effectively help the people you’re trying to reach. If you’re properly aligned in terms of morality and ethics, you will see positive benefits.
A great example of nontraditional community philanthropy comes from private pilots who help those in need of distant medical assistance, such as Angel Flight. Or look toward LEGO, whose CSR initiatives include training and organizing a force of 3,000 “Play Agents” who helps kids across the country engage in healthy, creative play that helps them grow and develop.
There are almost no limits to the ways that you can better your community—and often, the most creative ideas (like the two above) come from tying your unique skills and mission with a good cause.
Even if you have a limited budget, you can give. You might start out small and expand from there—just be sure to set an annual budget and stick with it. Like many companies, you might find that a few years of projects not only makes you feel good and helps your culture, it might also be boosting your brand and sales, allowing you to set aside even more to give.
Cost-conscious businesses may be more open to philanthropic spending if they view it (at least partially) as a marketing expense and not just acts of charity.
Once you’ve selected your specific method of giving back, creating a clear plan of execution is key. Starting a philanthropy takes a coordinated effort and knowledge. Questions to consider include:
What are our giving parameters?
Do we need staff/a board to manage our efforts?
Will we require applications?
Do we need to take applications?
How will we accept applications?
How to promote your giving (both before and after)?
Seeing the impact of your philanthropy won’t happen overnight. It will compound over time and grow as your business grows. Once you begin, you’ll see that it helps everyone—and that giving back should be one of the reasons businesses exist in the first place. Be thoughtful, be patient, and get giving!
As the expectations for companies involved in CSR work continue to rise, so do the stakes. CSR programs are increasingly complex and it’s important to give your team the best possible tools to organize and execute a winning CSR strategy. Submittable is a modern submission platform that allows your team to significantly reduce the time and resources it takes to run a topnotch CSR initiative.