By Michelle Dillinger
Companies that encourage community involvement distinguish themselves from their competitors, and see many benefits, including loyal customers and happier employees. According to a May 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82 percent of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility (CSR) when deciding which products or services to buy and where to shop.
"I've found that customers really want to know how you're making the world a better place," says Erin Giles, an Aiken, S.C.-based business philanthropy consultant who helps entrepreneurs find causes they're passionate about and incorporate their message into their business. Moms and Millennials are particularly interested in a business' corporate social responsibility platform, Giles says.
Here are a few things to consider when incorporating community service into your business plan.
Look at your community to see what's important. Are the schools struggling? Does the animal shelter need donations? For example, Cody Pierce, vice president of marketing for Orange City, Iowa-based Pizza Ranch franchises, says the restaurants host "community impact" nights, where friends and family members bus tables to support a local cause, such as raising money for a class trip. Pizza Ranch donates the night's tips and 5 to 20 percent of the profits to the cause, while community members often provide additional donations.
The business benefits because it fills the restaurant on a typically slow night. He says building relationships starts by making genuine connections with your customers, then finding ways you can contribute.
Giving employees an avenue to give back is important to morale and builds a collaborative and inspired team, Giles says. "When your employees love what they're doing, they do a better job," she says. Giles suggests that businesses offer employees an opportunity to volunteer during work hours or participate in get-togethers after work, which is more fulfilling than just meeting for drinks.
Volunteering also provides leadership opportunities for employees, which leads to increased staff performance and fulfillment and, ultimately, increased productivity and sales, Giles notes.
Giles recommends that business owners evaluate their business and employee strengths and select volunteer activities that draw upon those strengths. For example, if you own an accounting firm, you could volunteer to help a nonprofit set up their accounting practices or do their taxes.
Likewise, if you own a restaurant, consider catering a school staff meeting to show your appreciation for your local teachers. Pierce says this may open the door to future catering opportunities, an incremental way to increase revenue. Decide how much time your employees can volunteer through the business on an annual basis, taking into account your operation demands.
Once you've implemented your volunteer strategy, let current and prospective customers know what you're doing by including this information on your website. Giles suggests putting a dollar amount of how much your donated time or services would normally cost next to the number of hours your employees have spent giving back so it's easy for customers to understand how much your company gives to the community.
5 Companies Doing Corporate Philanthropy Right
Some companies just get it. They understand that nonprofits are out there fighting to make the world a better place, so they institute corporate giving programs that provide more funds, in more ways, to more organizations.
Two popular ways that companies donate to nonprofits are:
1. Matching gift programs – Corporations match employee donations to eligible nonprofits, thus doubling or tripling donations.
2. Volunteer grant programs – Businesses award money to nonprofits in exchange for employee efforts at those nonprofits.
Like Tom Brady with a football, some companies make corporate giving look easy, and they accomplish great feats as if doing so is simply in their nature. Below are five companies that deserve an MVP trophy for corporate philanthropy.
CEO Tim Cook became Apple’s head honcho in April 2011 and almost immediately instituted a program to match employee donations. In the time since, Apple has matched over $25 million worth of employee donations, resulting in more than $50 million for charities around the world.
In October 2014, Apple informed employees that it will expand its corporate giving program to include all countries in which it has a presence, which extends the program from U.S.-based nonprofits and a handful of organizations in other nations. Apple also announced that its volunteer grant program will give employees $25 per hour for their respective organizations.
Silicon Valley companies have been criticized for a lack of corporate philanthropy, although companies may just differ in how they donate. While Tim Cook is adamant about employees dictating where Apple donates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg separates his business from his philanthropy. He and his wife gave $120 million to help local schools in 2014, which demonstrates his propensity to acquire wealth and share it personally rather than to donate through corporate giving.
Apple will match employee donations up to $10,000 per year, and most 501(c) (3) organizations or equivalent organizations are eligible to receive matching gifts.
Normal companies don’t offer diverse giving options, but Google is not a normal company. With offices in 70 cities and more than 40 countries, Google’s philanthropy has a deep global reach from New York, to the U.K., to Germany and more.
Google could not give as much as it does without enthusiastic, benevolent employees. Last year, more than 6,500 Google employees volunteered nearly 80,000 hours of service. In total, Google has matched $21 million in employee donations to over 9,000 organizations worldwide.
Google’s community programs include:
1. Bay Area Giving: Proud to support local nonprofits that strengthen the community, Google has given over $60 million to Bay Area nonprofits over the past three years.
2. Code for America: In an effort to provide better technological support for governments that are slow to embrace technology, Google provides Code for America with an annual gift of $3 million to develop civic technological solutions.
3. Roberta: Google believes that robots are a fun, effective way to teach children foundational technological concepts, so they funded Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems to help them develop technology to program and control robots using a smartphone app.
4. Programming Education Gathering: Google donated more than 5,000 Raspberry Pi computers in order to provide a computer science education to more than 25,000 Japanese children.
5. Raspberry Pi: A $1 million Google grant will give Raspberry Pi computers — inexpensive microcomputers about the size of a credit card — to 15,000 U.K. children who show exceptional enthusiasm for computer science.
In 1983, 200 Microsoft employees raised $17,000 for nonprofits through the company’s first employee giving program. Thanks to matching gifts, Microsoft employees have since donated over $1 billion to charitable organizations. That’s a lot of computers.
But maybe it’s not a lot of computers, because Microsoft saves nonprofits from having to spend too much on technology through product donations. In 2014, over 86,000 organizations in more than 125 countries received technology donations. The gifts ranged from computers to software to refurbished hardware in an effort to affordably bring nonprofits into the 21st century.
Microsoft also offers a volunteer match program, which began in 2005. Nonprofits receive $25 per hour when Microsoft employees volunteer for at least four hours.
For regular matching gifts, Microsoft employees may submit matching gift requests for donations up to $15,000 per year, which is one reason Microsoft is consistently included in the listing of top matching gift programs.
Pepsi is a food and beverage powerhouse, which is why its philanthropy prioritizes related causes, including:
• Healthy lifestyles
• Affordable nutrition
• Access to clean water
• Sustainable agriculture
• Job readiness
• Empowering women
Pepsi offers to match gifts up to $10,000 per year per employer, and it matches at a 2:1 ratio if the employee volunteers more than 50 hours with a single organization. Otherwise, Pepsi matches 1:1.
Pepsi employees strive to improve communities through a number of programs including:
1. Pepsi Corps: This skill-based volunteer program places Pepsi employees in communities from Ghana, to India, to New Mexico, to aid with projects that relate to Pepsi’s corporate giving initiatives.
2. Mother Water Cellar Project in Greater China Region: Pepsi volunteers helped to construct a water purification tower for the benefit of over 700 students and teachers at a school in southwest China.
3. Food for Good: Started by employees in 2009, Food for Good has served over 1.6 million free, nutritious meals to inner-city children.
Pepsi also prides itself on strategic grants, through which it donates about $25 million per year. The company loves to support water sanitation efforts, and tends to give large gifts to organizations that are established enough to deliver potable water to millions of people.
Like Pepsi, Shell also supports the community in a big way.
Through a long-standing philanthropic relationship, Shell has donated more than $24.8 million dollars to the University of Texas at Austin. In 2012, Shell and UT signed a five-year, $7.5 million deal to address challenges facing the growing worldwide oil and gas industry. Most of the money will go to research, but nearly half a million dollars will support UT students and programs.
To empower employees, Shell offers a matching gift program. The company matches employee donations between $25 and $5,500 at a 1:1 ratio.
Matching gifts have helped Shell to pursue several philanthropic goals. As of the end of 2014, Shell donations have helped to create more than 35,000 jobs, saved 6.2 million metric tons of CO2, and raised $5 billion for organizations in four continents.
In 2013, more than $335 billion worth of charitable donations were given to nonprofits, and 15 percent of that came from company foundations. Giving by foundations also increased by 5.7 percent from the previous year. When it comes to charitable giving, corporations matter, and the funds they give are a significant portion of the giving pie. Whether it’s through matching gifts, volunteer grants or related charitable initiatives, it’s good to see that some of the world’s largest companies believe in philanthropy and lead by example.
The five above companies are some of the most successful companies in the world. And charitable giving as a core value benefits their bottom line in more ways than just community appreciation.
The Importance of Giving Back to the Community from Big Business
The most important part of a business is its employees. Employees that feel happy, motivated and proud of the company they represent are more effective for the business.
Giving back to the local community should be part of every successful business model. As well as building goodwill for the company and creating consumer confidence, it attracts and retains employees, resulting in a happier and more productive workforce. It is possible to create a corporate giving program that not only contributes to the community but also benefits the business – both short-term and in the future.
How philanthropy benefits a business
The most important part of a business is its employees. Employees that feel happy, motivated and proud of the company they represent are more effective for the business. If an employer shows its employees that they share their personal values with regard to giving something back to the community, employees will feel a boost in morale and be more loyal to their employer. The result is that the business retains valued employees, saving time and expense with recruitment.
Better working relationships
Businesses can allow employees time out of the workplace to pursue volunteering roles, which can encourage working relationships with colleagues they wouldn’t necessarily mix with, and enhance teamwork skills. Consider offering volunteer grant programs, where a set donation is made to a nonprofit organization for every hour an employee volunteers their services, or a grant is made once an employee reaches a certain threshold; for example, 20 hours in a year.
Attracting new talent
Offering this kind of support gives the company an edge in recruitment by appealing to potential employees and attracting new talent to apply to join the company. Current and prospective employees and customers can be informed about philanthropy by including this information on the company’s website; hours can be converted to real money if it is donated time, so customers can see how much the company has given back to the community.
Philanthropic activity helps businesses gain stature and visibility in the community and contributes to brand recognition, particularly with favorable press coverage. This can be extremely positive; a member of the community that is disadvantaged or involved with someone that needs help comes across the brand and associates it with an improvement in quality of life in some way. In addition, this can earn their loyalty – a good investment for the future.
Being involved with the community helps build valuable relationships with government officials and community leaders. This could stand a business in good stead should their assistance be required in the future with regulatory issues associated with business practice, and they can also help with getting their constituents on board with issues surrounding the business and its future initiatives.
Future customer base
Improving living conditions can help build a customer base for the future; for example, improving literacy or health in an area could benefit a company in the long run.
By becoming involved with universities or other educational facilities, companies can benefit from technical expertise, research and applications from talented graduates.
Social responsibility, philanthropy and corporate giving
Investing in one’s own community and the people who live there makes good business sense. It can be financial contributions to nonprofit organizations in the community, sponsoring volunteer projects, or by supporting employees in their volunteering choices by offering flexible work schedules so that employees can contribute their time and skills. Philanthropic activity means improving the economic, social or educational conditions in an area that could benefit from some help.
Royal Golden Eagle International (RGE) works with corporate partners to improve the standard of living in local communities by providing access to clean water and health care, and education in rural areas with an aim to reduce poverty. Sukanto Tanoto is the founder of RGE, a resources-based manufacturing group of world-class companies with corporate offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Beijing and Nanjing. As well as exercising great social responsibility, RGE companies promote sustainable development, including responsible forestry management, conservation, and low-impact harvesting techniques to minimize any negative environmental impact. RGE supports those affected by natural disasters both financially and materially. Sukanto Tanoto RGE’s products are transformed into a variety of end products that improve people’s lives around the globe.
Pitney Bowes in Connecticut organized for employees to share books with children at a child development center offering education and nutritional programs. They helped to digitize a card catalog in a school library, improved playground facilities, and provided career workshops for high school students.
Ways a business can contribute:
• A company can show appreciation for employees’ fundraising efforts by matching the amount they raise for a nonprofit organization with the same amount. This is a real boost for employees.
• Volunteer grant programs – a set donation is made for every hour an employee volunteers, or a grant is made once employees reach a certain threshold.
• Corporate team volunteer grants – the company provides a monetary donation when a group of employees volunteer together at an organization, resulting in an enjoyable and rewarding team building event.
• Corporate scholarship – support students studying in a certain area or institution.
It might seem like a costly option, but philanthropy is a sound investment for long-term financial success if the organization’s core business, target market and employees’ skills are focused upon. Those seeking to contribute should look at the local community and see where help is needed. It is also useful to consider how businesses can help one another. Perhaps it would be possible to volunteer services that will help to fill a local restaurant on a quiet night, which will boost business for them; a catering company could offer free catering at a community event, which will boost the company profile; an accountancy firm could provide free accounting services, which could lead to future opportunities and business.
It is important that big corporations and business owners give back to the community as a matter of social responsibility. There are ways that businesses can do this that will benefit local communities and businesses, as well as resulting in a happier, more productive workforce, increased awareness of the company and its product, and long-term advantages for the company’s future.