Millions of people around the world suffer from lack of food, water, shelter, education, or medical care, and many people in your local community are undoubtedly struggling. Your company can provide meaningful change in the world by committing to giving back.
Giving back may also provide some surprising benefits for your company, especially if you get your team involved. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of corporate philanthropy, find tips to make the most impact with your efforts, and discover ways to inspire your team to get into the spirit of giving back.
Good for People, Good for Business
When a company gives back to a cause it cares about, it benefits the recipient and the company. Giving is rewarding and feels good. In one study, people were randomly assigned to spend different amounts of money on themselves or on others. At the end of the experiment, people who spent their money on others reported being happier than the people who spent money on themselves.
Moreover, volunteering boosts physical and mental health. It’s linked to reduced blood pressure, stress levels, and depression, and increased longevity. And people who are committed to a purpose outside themselves sleep better at night and have better cognitive function regardless of age and education level.
A corporate social responsibility program can also help a business attract customers and top talent. Especially in the case of younger customers and employees who want to work with businesses that match their mission of creating a better world. In one survey, nearly two-thirds of millennials (now the largest living generation) said they’d prefer to work for a company that gives to charity. In a different study, 63% of millennials said they wished their employer contributed to social and ethical causes. Millennials are also more likely than previous generations to purchase products from socially responsible companies.
It may feel self-serving to publicize your company’s charitable efforts, but it could spur more people to commit to worthy causes. Giving is contagious, and research suggests people are more likely to support charities when they see others doing so. However, there’s one caveat: Boasting about philanthropy may backfire if a company acts irresponsibly in other areas. Millennial consumers want to support businesses that value workers and environmental resources, as much as they value giving back to worthy causes.
How to Choose a Cause
With more than 1 million non-profit foundations and charities in the U.S., it may be daunting to decide on a cause to support. Paradoxically, the more choices available, the harder it is to make a decision and act. Use these tips to find a cause that fits your company and gets results.
- Find a charity that aligns with your company’s values
What does your business do? What is your mission? If you’re in food service, for instance, maybe you’ll reach out to a non-profit focused on urban food insecurity or recycling. Or if you’re in the financial sector, you could look at one of the many nonprofits devoted to increasing financial literacy. Finding a charity that aligns with your company’s values is a great place to start.
- Focus on impact
Do you want to help women start small businesses, communities rebuild after disasters, children learn to read, or needy families have access to nutritious food? Visit a charity evaluator website, such as GiveWell, the Open Philanthropy Project, or the Foundational Research Institute, to compare the costs and effects of different interventions.
- Do your research
Before you commit to a cause, make sure it’s legitimate by checking a charity watchdog site such as CharityWatch, Charity Navigator, or BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Ideally, a charity should spend a majority of its funds on programs, not fundraising or administration.
- Pay a visit
By partnering with a local non-profit, you can help people in your local community and make it a better place to live. You’ll also have opportunities to sponsor team volunteer work days or local charity events. Before you partner with an organization, visit and observe their work first-hand.
- Verify tax-exempt status
Donations that meet certain requirements are tax-deductible. Before you commit to a cause, verify the non-profit group's tax-exempt status by checking with the group or visiting the IRS website, and talk to your tax expert.
Inspire Your Team
Your company can make an even bigger impact in the world by inspiring your team to give back. Moreover, when your team is inspired, your company will also benefit. Employees who feel engaged in a company’s mission work harder. ProjectROI reviewed more than 300 studies and found that a well-designed corporate social responsibility program can increase employee engagement by 7.5%, increase productivity and revenue by 13%, and decrease employee turnover by 50%.
According to an analysis by Fortune Magazine, employees are more likely to be engaged when they feel empowered (not pressured) to be part of a corporation’s giving efforts. (Forcing employees to give usually backfires and makes employees feel resentful.)
Consider these ways to empower your team to voluntarily participate in your company’s giving campaigns:
- Match gifts
Mentioning matching funds in a fundraising drive boosts the response rate by 71% and the average donation by 51%, according to an analysis. Gift-matching programs can make a big impact. The employees of one large corporation have donated more than 1 billion dollars to charitable organizations thanks to a gift-matching program. But it’s not enough to match your employees’ donations; you must also get the word out to your team. While 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching funds, the median participation rate at most companies is about 9%. However, 65 to 70% of employees participate in companies that do a great job of publicizing their gift-matching program to employees.
- Offer Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
Want your employees to give back to the community and reap all of the positive benefits of volunteering? Offer a paid day off each month or year to volunteer at a local non-profit. VTO is a great way to inspire your employees to be an active part of your social responsibility mission. If it’s not easy for your company to lose an employee for a day, mitigate that potential downside by working out scheduling far in advance.
- Offer charitable gifts for birthdays
Some employees may appreciate a charity donation made in their name more than a gift or party. Consider offering a donation as one of your company’s birthday celebration options. If an employee chooses the donation, be sure to let him or her pick the charity to make the gift more meaningful.
- Organize a team volunteer day
A “day of service” is a great way to combine a team-building opportunity with contributing to the greater good. Be sure to plan your team volunteer day well in advance and partner with a non-profit organization that can accommodate a large group of volunteers. Ideally, the work should be meaningful and allow for social interaction. Consider these ideas: A food bank, animal shelter, soup kitchen, community garden, building project, or park or trail cleanup.
- Host a food drive
Make it easy for employees to contribute to a good cause by hosting a food drive in the office. Order collection barrels from a local food bank, set a goal for how many pounds of food you’d like to collect and distribute shopping lists of the food bank’s most needed food items to your team. To make your drive more fun, encourage friendly interdepartmental competition, announce the total pounds collected daily or weekly, and/or hold a raffle during the drive and charge a can of food for admission.
- Reduce waste and donate excess
More than 75% of employees in one survey said they wanted their employers to take action to protect the environment. One way to reduce your company’s impact is to analyze your waste stream and pledge to reduce it. If you make products, don’t let older models clutter up your warehouse or end up in a landfill. Partner with a non-profit such as Good360 to donate them to people in need. Don’t toss office food leftovers; instead, donate them to a local food bank or partner with an organization such as Re-plate to get them to hungry people. Get your employees involved and they may feel more excited about your company’s overall mission.
Be a Force for Good
Martin Luther King said “Life's persistent and most urgent question is 'What are you doing for others?'” When giving back is one of your company’s core values, your community, employees, and company will all reap the rewards.