Alessandra Cavalluzzi, Author, A Million Dollars In Change: How to Engage Your Employees, Attract Top Talent, and Make the World a Better Place
There is a misconception out there that corporations provide the bulk of the donations that nonprofits receive. This is false. In fact, the majority of the donations made annually to nonprofits come from individuals. A 2015 study by Charity Navigator revealed that seventy-one percent of all donations made to nonprofits come from individuals. If you add gifts and bequests from family foundations to the mix, which are essentially gifts from individuals, that number jumps up to eighty percent. What this says is that there is clearly a lot more that corporations can be doing to make our communities healthier, stronger, and more prosperous.
According to the Small Business Administration, there are 30.2 million small businesses in the United States in 2018. There are 19,076 firms with 500 or more employees as of 2015. Imagine if each of these businesses had a community involvement program. The impact corporations could make by working with nonprofits and community groups to solve social, environmental, and financial issues in our communities could be tremendous. Indeed, for decades, human resources professionals and business leaders have been alert to the importance and impact of corporate social responsibility. Numerous articles, white papers, and books discuss why it’s in a company’s best interest to adopt charitable giving as part of a business strategy. Yet when it comes to the how of creating such a program, many small and midsized companies are dissuaded from starting giving programs and getting involved in their community because they incorrectly assume that they don’t have enough money and/or resources to make a meaningful impact. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, your company can take an active role in creating positive change in your community. Whether your firm has been around for decades or you’re an entrepreneur starting your business from the ground up, there are countless things you can do to help support the community where you live and work. All companies have the power to create social impact. No effort is too small.
So where to begin? Quite simply, at the beginning. What I mean by that is, you’ll need to identify your company’s purpose or it’s “Why” before you go down the path of developing a charitable giving or a CSR program. Now you might be thinking, “I know my company inside and out. I work there, don’t I?” That might be true, but how well do you know your company’s reason for existing? Knowing your company is more than just knowing what types of products you manufacture or sell, what kind of services you offer, or the benefit plan your employees receive. What you need to know are your organization’s goals and objectives. You must understand your corporate culture, and why your company does what it does. In his book Start with Why, Simon Sinek talks about how leaders should look at their “why” first when developing their corporate strategy. The same holds true for your corporate giving or CSR strategy. Start with your company’s “Why” and build from there. The reason it’s so important to begin with understanding your company’s purpose is because your program’s goals and objectives will need to be aligned with your company’s goals in order for you to create measurable and sustainable change.
Before you begin the process of looking into nonprofits to partner with, you’ll need to determine what your program’s focus will be. For example, will your program center around education? Or will it be environmental causes? Or maybe it’s children’s causes? For branding purposes, you should look to align your program’s focus with the type of business you run. For example, if you are a supermarket, restaurant, or in the food service industry, you may want to partner with food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or food rescue organizations. Holding a food drive, donating unopened/unused food to rescue organizations, and volunteering to cook at soup kitchens are some ways that you can engage your employees in service projects. If you’re a tech company, you might consider partnering with schools or nonprofit organizations in underserved communities to help create programs that provide students with the tools and technology they need to be successful. You may also consider donating your time, expertise and talent to help with skills training that is otherwise unavailable to this demographic of the population. These are just a few examples that don’t cost a lot of money to get off the ground but go a long way toward creating positive change.
In short, it all begins with your “Why”. Aligning your company’s charitable works with your purpose keeps your program grounded and communicates a consistent and easy-to-remember message to all of your stakeholders. It also provides clear guidelines to help manage the expectations of the many nonprofit organizations that are seeking funding. Best of all, it ensures that your efforts are aligned with your company’s core values and culture. This creates an emotional connection between your employees and your company, a key driver when it comes to employee engagement.
Charity Navigator Giving Statistics. www.charitynavigator.org
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