The phrase “business philanthropy” conjures up images of McDonald’s and Walmart donating millions to initiatives such as the Ronald McDonald House Charities and global hunger relief. However, you don’t have to be a big corporate player to make a real difference to the wider community and at the same time boost your own brand. Here are a few practical ideas for getting involved in corporate philanthropy.
Align with non-profits
The majority of non-profit organizations are forever short on money but have a dedicated base of supporters as well as endless goodwill and often a lot of media knowledge. If you look for such a group that is within your business sphere, and discuss how you can support them as well as ways in which they can promote your brand, the resulting partnership could be long term and mutually beneficial. You’ll be helping the local community and building your consumer base at the same time.
Create a foundation
Enterprising and community-minded corporate leaders might like to follow the example of Cecilia Ibru, the multitalented and highly influential Nigerian businesswoman who co-founded the Michael and Cecilia Foundation with her husband. This non-profit organization has spearheaded community programs that address pressing issues such as disease prevention and child education, and has had an enormous impact on people’s lives in Nigeria and across the developing world.
Brand recognition and goodwill can both be effectively built on by setting up a philanthropic program that is built around your particular business specialty. Refurbishing old computers for people in need, for example, can channel resources, materials and training to local community groups. Even if you don’t at present have the resources for a large drive, you can focus on smaller efforts that will encourage local media interest and certainly impress potential new customers.
There are always lots of local opportunities for getting involved with non-profit projects such as creating community gardens, play groups, and city farms. Talk with your employees about joining volunteer work schemes for which they’ll be paid in full by you. While they’re doing their thing, take lots of photographs – these can be added to your corporate website and included in regular newsletters. Different levels of support can be offered to volunteering staff, such as financial support for fundraising initiatives, or the implementation of a fund matching program, whereby all funds raised at an event are matched by the company. Many companies now allow employees to take a day off work every month, on full pay, to get involved in various community programs and make wider use of their skills and time.
The bottom line is that businesses that encourage involvement in their local community stand out from the competition, and among the many benefits of this are happier employees and more loyal customers. Employer-supported volunteering, especially, is becoming a real global force. Employees, corporations and non-profits all benefit from it, and civic engagement programs are becoming all the rage right across the business world.