You've probably heard the expression "it's better to give than to receive". While you tend to hear it more about people than organizations, it's just as true about companies as it is for individuals. In this post we'll look at the many benefits for companies, especially business-to-business companies, of having a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy for giving to causes that matter to them and their employees.
The Philosophy of Philanthropy
The trend towards “putting your money where your mouth is” has been growing in business for some time – particularly in B2C (business to consumer) organizations and across markets in the “going green” and “carbon footprint reduction” space.
But what, really, is the business benefit of "giving back"? And how does it apply in business-to-business (B2B)?
For many B2B owners, leaders and managers, giving back resonates as “the right thing to do”. But the reality is that philanthropy can and should be much more than that. Philanthropy is also an excellent building block for B2B marketing, employee engagement and brand extension – not to mention the obvious tax benefits and general goodwill of being a “good corporate citizen”.
Before you hand over a portion of your profit to charity though, analyze your major corporate philanthropy as you would any other marketing or lead generation tactic. It doesn’t belittle your gift – it makes it better for both you and the charity you choose.
Gifts Come in all Shapes and Sizes
While many business leaders automatically think of monetary donations when it comes to philanthropic giving, that’s not always the only, or best, choice.
B2B companies can make gifts of money, time, products and services – and combinations thereof – which means that a small to medium sized organization, for example, could potentially make a larger gift than money alone might have allowed. It also means that employees have an opportunity to get involved if your gift includes volunteering or other gifts of time or services.
Define Your Giving Objectives
Any CFO will tell you that the objective of corporate giving is the tax write-off. And yes, that could be the primary objective of your organization if you are making a very high dollar-value gift.
But the reality is that most small to mid-sized companies don’t have the luxury of making large donations. Therefore, calculating the ROI on a charitable gift comes down to other priorities - and there are many other benefits - such as:
Visibility in a local community
This is usually geographically relevant to the business, for example, supporting local hospitals, schools, arts buildings or libraries, food banks or parks.
Visibility within a specific target audience
Supporting groups and activities that already reach your target audience, for example donating to a prostate cancer charity if your key customers are males between the ages of 40-65.
Employee engagement / corporate culture
Asking your employees which charities matter most to them and then finding ways to help them get involved is an excellent morale booster. This could include personal donation matching – both money or food bank goods, for example - as well as organizing volunteers.
Product or service sampling
If your business manufactures products or offers services that could be donated to the community or other organizations, this is a great way to not only give back but provide sampling and testing to prospects.
Sometimes working in tandem with a partner allows you to make a larger or more meaningful gift. Whether it’s time, money or products and services, partnering also gives you an additional audience for your philanthropic message.
This includes everything from sponsoring a bench to a building where a plaque or name might give you brand extension, to sponsoring a local kids hockey team where your business might reach potential prospects in their group of parents (and all of their opponents’ parents). It can also include sponsoring charitable events, speakers, facilities, or the event’s transportation, for example.
Positive brand attribution, brand awareness and extension
By leveraging your philanthropy properly in your messaging and marketing, this happens naturally as a result of any charitable gift.
Extend the Value of Corporate Social Responsibility and Your Donation
Before you make a final philanthropic decision, find out if there are any “rules” from the charity you’ve chosen around communicating your gift or partnership with them. While supporting the charities that are most important to you and your employees is key, it's also an investment by your business and you should try to get the most value possible from that investment by telling the world about it. Here are some ways to spread the word and make more out of your donation:
- Press Release – you don’t have to name the exact value of your gift, unless there is value in doing so (for example, the number of employees volunteering and/or the number of hours they are donating). Ensure that your release includes at least one quote from your B2B business leader and one quote from a representative of the charitable organization you’ve selected.
- Blog – provide added exposure for both your philanthropy and the charity you’ve chosen by writing about your choice in a blog. Ensure you post it on your website and share it across company and personal social media.
- Social posting – as noted above, share your philanthropy and build awareness for the charity you’ve chosen by posting in company and personal social media outlets. If there are updates or results, share those as well. More news is good news!
- Employee newsletter or internal communication – ensure your employees are aware of your gift and ways they can participate. Build employee engagement and boost morale by letting them know they work for an organization that cares.
- Customer and supplier communication – send your press release to your customers and suppliers so they also know what a great partner they have in your organization. Companies like working with businesses that care.
- Email Signature – if it makes sense to do so, find a way to incorporate your charitable support into a temporary email signature. For example, adding “Proud Sponsor of” with the charity’s logo, “Proudly supporting….” Or “Proud partner of….”, etc.
- Add it to your website – whether in a partner’s section or as a small section on your About Us page, incorporate a brief description of your philanthropy and links to the charities you support. This can also appear in website news sections both initially and as updates occur.
- Business Cards – if your philanthropy is long-term, consider adding it more permanently to your corporate communications as part of a footer or additional logo so that your customers, suppliers and prospects see your charitable choices regularly.
Plan your Philanthropy to Get the Most Bang for your Buck
Leaving charity to the last minute can be risky. Without properly planning your giving within the context of your overall company objectives, scratching out a cheque at the end of the year could leave both you and your charity of choice wanting more.
Proper philanthropic planning includes determining not only the value of your gift – and when it will be given (is it monthly? Quarterly? Annually?) - but how you will communicate it effectively in your business, sales and marketing efforts. Adding this as a line item to your overall marketing plan is an excellent way to ensure that the messaging doesn’t get missed and that you and your charity see the full value of your gift.
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