Innovation Key to Today's Corporate Philanthropy
Faced with economic and legislative uncertainty, companies can find it difficult to make business plans. Consequently, corporate philanthropic decisions can be uncertain, so nonprofits find themselves scrambling to develop alternative budgets. In the midst of this turmoil is February 25 – International Corporate Philanthropy Day (ICPD).
The day offers large and small companies an opportunity to share stories, apprise customers and employees of the good work accomplished, let media see the valuable contributions of business in the community and strengthen the business-nonprofit relationship.
Celebrated the fourth Monday in February, ICPD is sponsored by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, an organization that challenges business leaders “to find innovative ways to fulfill unmet social needs and to lead the way to better alignment of business and social strategies.”
In this challenging environment, many businesses must be truly innovative when tackling socially responsible, philanthropic goals. Out of ideas?
Donate for Reuse. Downsizing your office? Remodeling your building? Upgrading equipment? The materials resulting from your project could go into a landfill. They could be sold. Or, they could be donated to a nonprofit, which can use the materials for its operation.
When Lyerly Agency, a full-service marketing and public relations firm, relocated its headquarters, a mahogany conference room table along with the matching 12 chairs and mahogany-encased refrigerator had to go. Although selling these items were an option, the agency recognized Alexander Youth Network of Charlotte, NC, needed the conference table. So, the expensive office furniture found a new home and the nonprofit saved money.
Give Time. American & Efird, a global supplier of premium thread and yarns, meets social and environmental goals while involving employees. For example, associates at a manufacturing facility in Vardhman, India, planted 435 trees as part of a re-forestation initiative. Similarly, the company donated and planted saplings in a Costa Rican community.
Link Environmental and Social Goals. In Baddi, India, where American & Efird uses technological advancements to conserve and clean water at its manufacturing facility, the company provides free water for six hours every day to the community.
Initiate Cause-Related Marketing. Campbell Soup isn’t interested in simply writing a check, according to John Faulkner, the company’s director of brand communication. Instead, it designs campaigns focused on making a big difference for select causes and that permit customers to participate. In the Labels for Education program, customers save UPC labels and beverage caps in return for items schools can use. Educational institutions redeem the collected “points” for free merchandise that benefits students or the school’s operation.
Share Knowledge. The Samuel Adams “Brewing the American Dream Speed Coaching” events connect employee-specialists, other local business experts and people needing advice on how to start or grow a small business. Working with Accion, a not-for-profit microlender, many small business owners have gained free advice and business insights into numerous areas where beer company employees possess expertise.
A Billion + Change, a national campaign designed to mobilize pro bono and skills-based services to help struggling nonprofits meet the increasing needs of communities, believes companies benefit from such philanthropic initiatives on multiple levels. Businesses achieve triple bottom line results that engage employees and add value to the community. It’s a strategic and proven approach to help the nonprofit sector while providing an excellent return on such an investment, according to organizers.
So while elected officials decide what to tax and what to cut, there is no need to curtail your organization’s socially responsible efforts. Large or small, you can make a difference; engender positive employee morale and pride because of your civic-minded approach; build customer goodwill through innovative philanthropic actions; and enhance your reputation as a caring business while building trust.
And of course, you can tell your story, along with others, on International Corporate Philanthropy Day.
Reprinted with permission from the January 18, 2013 Triad Business Journal.