When it comes to corporate philanthropy, is your company doing more than the bare minimum: that is, cutting checks to a few favored organizations every year in the fourth quarter, then sitting back and letting others roll up their sleeves?
You’re not an expert on philanthropy, and you’ve gotten to your present position by delegating effectively, so your decision is understandable. There’s no shame in letting more knowledgeable, committed professionals do the difficult work of making the world a better place.
But perhaps there’s more you can do within your own organization to strengthen and streamline your corporate giving program. Perhaps a more effective brand of philanthropy is within reach.
Indeed, it is, when you commit to implementing some or all of these five strategies for better corporate giving.
Pay Close Attention to Charities’ Third-Party Ratings
Before patronizing a new charity, make sure your money will be well spent. Use reputable third-party rating resources like Charity Navigator (itself a nonprofit!) to assess the quality of the organizations that align with your values. Some may surprise you with their parsimony; others will shock with their profligacy.
Establish Long-Term Partnerships With Organizations Doing Good Work in Your Community
Stay in the charity game for the long haul by brokering multi-year partnerships with worthy organizations in your community. By way of example: The Values-in-Action Foundation honored steel executive Todd Leebow, President and CEO of Majestic Steel USA, for his efforts to maintain and expand a multi-year partnership with the Ronald McDonald House of Greater Cleveland. That partnership saw Majestic associates volunteer hundreds of hours to a variety of RMH Cleveland projects, leaving both organizations stronger.
Incentivize Employees to Give on Their Own Time (And Yours)
You can afford to spare a day of PTO each quarter, especially when you know it’ll result in good works. If you host voluntary company giveback days at a particular off-site location, compensate employees for their time; alternatively, let employees invoice for volunteer hours performed with approved organizations on their own time.
Focus on Project-Based Philanthropy, Not One-Off Cash Gifts
Cash charity is fine. Project-based charity is better. Build your company’s philanthropy around initiatives that take weeks or months to complete, like Habitat for Humanity builds. Nothing builds charitable capacity like empowering your employees to return again and again to the same job site, logging progress in real time.
Make In-Kind Donations Wherever It Makes Sense
You surely have something your charitable partners want, beyond money and manpower. Why not share it? Whether it’s raw materials you won’t need, old vehicles you’d otherwise scrap, or finished goods you’re willing to write off, your in-kind contribution will make a real difference for the nonprofits you care about.
Give What You Can, When You Can
At the end of the day, you can’t forget that your first responsibility is to run your business to the best of your ability. Your stakeholders won’t let you forget it.
Nevertheless. As we’ve seen, improving your corporate giving program is not as difficult, resource-intensive, or financially costly as one would expect. Especially not when you remember your first obligation and commit only to giving what you can, when you can — whatever “giving” means in context.