Your company has an unlimited giving budget, right? As if! There's only so much green available to do good, so defining your company’s giving priorities is critical to your business’ ability to both drive return on investment for your company and to drive results for your community--two noble and very realistic goals!
Your c-level leadership and any director-level human resources, marketing, and sales pros should be part of the conversation. Not including these critical folks in the discussion and ultimate decisions about the company’s philanthropic priorities can have unintended consequences that can ultimately undermine your goals.
There really are no “right” or “wrong” choices when it comes to philanthropic priorities, but it is critical that your company intentionally define its charitable giving scope and revisit it often to be sure it’s not gone stale and that the scope continues to deliver the intended results. For example, if engagement of your company’s stakeholders is a goal, you’ll want to seriously consider how you can align your priorities with your employees’ and customers’ giving habits. Likewise, if positioning within your industry is a goal, you’ll want to consider how you can select a social cause that closely aligns with your industry.
Making sure your company’s priorities are strategic and have a core connection to your company’s values and annual outcomes is critical to the success of any corporate giving program.
The following are important considerations when determining your company’s philanthropic priorities:
Fewer Gifts, Greater Impact!
Having worked in non-profit fundraising for over a decade, I strongly discourage my clients from making charitable contributions under $500 and further encourage them to keep their giving range at $2,500 and above. A few thousand dollars can have a significant impact for a smaller non-profit organization and its mission. A gift of $10k and up may be considered a major gift for a small to mid-sized organization, which automatically moves your company to a more attractive recognition and engagement track within the organization. If you like personal attention, this is the way to go!
This means fewer donations of larger amounts. Non-profit fundraising professionals are used to hearing “no,” just like any sales person. Don’t let the guilt of “not being able to help everyone” keep you from making a deep impact with a select number of worthy organizations and causes each year.
It’s Not Forever!
Defining your giving scope this year doesn’t, in any way, keep you from revising that scope every year if that’s what’s best for your company. You can partner with specific non-profit organizations for many years consecutively or you can partner with new organizations every year. Remember, you (as a company) are the donor and you get to decide what works for you first and then identify non-profit partners that best fit your needs. You have my blessing, in case you needed it! You wouldn’t hire a contractor and then ask them what work they think should be done in your office, right? You would come up with a plan and everything you’d like to see come out of the project and then you’d interview contractors to find the right fit. Same concept.
Are Religious Organizations a Good Fit?
One of the easiest ways to start setting your company’s giving priorities is to decide if you will contribute to faith-based organizations that, by their nature, promote a specific religious practice or belief(s). Some companies have a culture and set of values that actually aligns perfectly with faith-based organizations and others do not. Either way, this is a great place to start.
Does Size Matter?
Is your company interested in supporting the local t-ball team or making a measurable community impact? Sometimes the act of simply sending money out into the community is at the top of a company’s priority list while other companies are dedicated to yielding social returns with their charitable contributions. Leaving a lasting impression on your local community’s social landscape is often best achieved by partnering with small to mid-sized non-profits or specific local programs of larger charities. Making a nation-wide or global impact on a specific social issue (such as “kids in foster care” or “access to healthcare”) typically happens in partnership with large, established charitable organizations (which may also have local roots).
Should You Align with Your Industry?
This consideration is most important for companies operating on a national or global scale. If your company is looking to stand out in its industry, a strategic partnership with a social cause and a highly visible organization whose mission supports that cause, is a great choice. For example, if your company operates in the global hospitality space, partnering with an organization like the Ronald McDonald House Charities®, which operates 365 hospitality houses globally, is an obvious choice. Likewise, if your company builds residential or commercial buildings across the U.S. and Canada, Habitat for Humanity is a natural fit, as a non-profit that constructs and awards homes to families in need. Aligning your giving priorities with your industry also automatically provides a nice heart connection for your employees and customers, since they are already dedicated to your company’s mission.
Should You Align with Your Employees' Giving?
Surveying your employees to understand their personal giving priorities can give you critical information. Understanding the causes your employees dedicate their time and cash gifts to can also help you design a suite of employee philanthropic benefits in collaboration with your human resources team, that can quickly and strategically deepen employee engagement. Who doesn’t want that?
Should You Align with Your Customers' Giving?
Customers are an important but oft’ forgotten part of your stakeholder picture when it comes to your corporate giving activities. Understanding the causes your customers prefer to support can help you direct company gifts in a way that can further engage your valued customers—present and future. After all, typically, the profits you have to donate to charitable causes were provided to you by your customers!
Defer to Your Priorities for All Philanthropic Activities!
Once your company has defined its charitable giving priorities, it’s critical that these guidelines be considered when any sponsorship, cash donation, in-kind donation, board membership, or company-sponsored volunteer opportunity arises. So, basically, any time a support request is made, it should fit the company’s priorities before it is even considered. Being able to pass on opportunities that aren’t well-aligned is as critical as identifying those that are a perfect fit.
Kristy Krugh is the owner and principal of Wicked Philanthropic Strategies and Wicked Visible Marketing. Following 15 years of service to the non-profit sector, Kristy now works exclusively with mission-driven companies in the for-profit sector to optimize their philanthropic systems for maximum marketing, sales, constituent, and community returns. Clients from across the country engage Kristy from her home base in Bend, Oregon where she is supervised daily by her rescue Bulldog, Dunkin. Kristy offers no-risk, no-cost Corporate Giving Assessments to all prospective clients and can't wait to hear from you!