Socially responsible companies that are in touch with their communities have happier and more productive employees. The inner happiness generated by improving your world empowers engaged employees and teams.
Corporate philanthropy programs can include anything from a community day of service, a wintertime coat drive, or those that are far reaching, like bringing electricity to Haiti. Small and medium sized corporations don’t need to set up your their own foundation, just pick a cause and get to it!
No matter how your firm decides to approach corporate philanthropy, there are some general guidelines to adhere to for a successful program.
Do it for the greater good
Make sure your program is truly for the betterment of a cause and not purely a publicity effort. People will see through self-serving charity that in reality is nothing more than a veiled marketing ploy. The primary goal of a corporate giving program is to aid a community, nonprofit, or cause. The process of serving via a corporate giving program results in happier and engaged employees. Finally, the corporation benefits from a more productive workforce.
A firm may receive media attention or even choose to advertise their efforts if it is within their budget. Think of these as ways to get more people on board with your do-gooder ways rather than an outlet to pat yourself on the back.
Seek Popular Opinion
Survey your employees to find out what causes your employees truly care about. Every donor has personal reasons for giving. They may choose to give to brain cancer research because they lost a relative to the disease. They may donate to the college that is their alma mater. One of the goals of a corporate community service program is to engage your employees. They are not going to be as enthusiastic about a program that does not fall within their area of interest.
If your firm is big enough, give your employees choices. Rather than conduct one holiday coat drive, do something each quarter like a springtime community clean-up day or volunteer at a local food pantry. Nonprofits are always in need, get connected with a local charity and find out what they need most.
Don’t take it personally
Some may choose not to participate in your day of service, fundraising campaign or gala. Not everyone has the means to donate every time they are solicited. Not everyone agrees with your cause. Some philanthropists give in other ways like in-kind donations or donations of skilled labor.
Once I was watching my son’s roller hockey game at an outdoor rink on a Saturday morning. A stranger approached me and asked if I would sign up to donate blood to support a community blood drive for a local girl. I declined with “No, thank you” and turned back to watch the game. For the record, I am a regular Red Cross blood donor and was eligible to donate at that time, however, I was scheduled for surgery the next week. The simple “no” was not enough for mister pushy neighborhood guy. He stood there, staring at the side of my face and said “No?” “No thank you?” “What do you mean No thank you?” as if the words were too difficult to interpret. I did not feel the need to explain my circumstances, especially to someone who wanted my DNA! That was not an example of a corporate program but was definitely bad manners. Understand that people have a lot more going on than you are aware. Accept their decisions and move on. Maybe they will contribute later on in some other way.
It takes time
Nonprofits are businesses too and building a business takes time and tenacity. Establish a goal for your program and make it reasonable. For everything I get involved in from fundraisers to fitness or business ventures, I set three goals. One is the short-term goal, the next and real goal is the ultimate goal and the last is called my lofty goal. James Collins and Jerry Porras called lofty goals the ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ or BHAG in their 1994 book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. BHAGs are long-term goals that span 5 to 20 years.
Last year I was part of team that set up an inaugural 5k race for a local charity. We decided that if we got 50 runners we would be doing okay. Fifty runners would make us breakeven financially. If we registered 100 runners, we knew the event was a success and would interpret that as a sign to continue next year. Our lofty goal was 150 runners. We hosted 120 runners that day and were thrilled! Just this morning I had a curbside conversation about who our new major sponsor was and how to tactfully shift last year’s sponsor over to another event!
Just as companies take time to become profitable, charity events can take time to build a following. Give them a chance to become a smashing success. Make your program a regular event that people will mark their calendars for. You want your employees to see the benefits of their efforts. Stating goals and celebrating them ensures that everyone is on board with realistic expectations.
Celebrate your Employees’ Accomplishments
Did you hit your short-term, ultimate or lofty goal? Be sure to celebrate your employee volunteers. Show them the results of their efforts, quantify them if possible: We collected 1000 coats, raised $20k dollars, or fed 6 families. Volunteers are in it because they want to do good. If you can, and the recipients are willing, bring them in to share in the joy. Sometimes giving is anonymous where the donor does not get to see the result or even meet the recipients. That is the case for my charity Kind Quilts. Due to patient confidentiality, our donating is completely anonymous. The last time we had a press event, we met the staff in the nurse’s lounge of a local hospital and took photos with the hospital directors. That does not stop us from singing the praises of our volunteers!