The Business of Giving: Lessons From the Data

 

Many of the insights provided by survey respondents serve as learning opportunities and can help influence philanthropic practices among businesses. Here are a few important lessons gleaned from the survey data: 

 

Set a Philanthropic Tone at the Top

CEOs are most likely to make the giving decisions for their companies; and a high percentage of companies (nearly half) have a formal giving strategy, provide philanthropic/giving language in the company’s materials, and let executives manage their giving initiatives.

Employees often take their cues from owners/management. If your leadership is committed to giving, it will instill this culture throughout the entire company in an impactful way. One concern: At companies where the CEO makes philanthropy decisions, community giving programs could go away or lose steam during CEO transition periods. That’s another reason philanthropy should be embedded into corporate strategy/culture.

 

Amplify Your Giving

Central Texas companies most often choose to support local nonprofits with their philanthropy. Community-based campaigns like Amplify Austin provide great opportunities to engage employees and take advantage of matching support. 

During last year’s Amplify Austin, corporate contributions were responsible for 10% of charitable giving on the day.  

 

Listen to Employees

When asked about potential downsides of business philanthropy, 31% of respondents noted that selected causes may not always align with individual employee values. Additionally, a comment from a survey respondent expressed a concern about asking too much: “Our employees already work hard enough and pressuring them to do more takes time away from their families.”

We suggest having regular and open communication with employees about philanthropic initiatives, soliciting their feedback and suggestions to foster a feeling of collaboration and ownership in a company’s giving strategy. 

 

Partner With a Nonprofit

According to the survey, only 10% of companies partner exclusively with one nonprofit, and 25% said that their company does not have ongoing partnerships with nonprofits.

Nonprofits need long-term partners — and sustainable forms of revenue. And nearly 50% of survey respondents said that one of the criteria they use to select nonprofits to support is the nonprofit’s “perceived alignment of the mission to our customer and clients.” Cultivating relationships with nonprofits allows your company to cross promote in a more meaningful way, and to have a deeper hand in the impact you’re making together. 

 

Look at BIPoC-Led Organizations

When asked how their company chooses nonprofits to support, more than half look at the population served. But only 11% look at whether a nonprofit is BIPoC-led (BIPoC stands for “Black, Indigenous and People of Color”). This seems incongruent in a community where reaching and supporting BIPoC populations is an important goal for many companies and their employees (more than 60% of respondents said their company supports human services and health & wellness organizations).

See where your company’s philanthropy efforts align with supporting BIPoC issues and consider using that as a criteria for choosing nonprofits to support in the future. 

 

Make a Plan – and Track Results

Companies with a philanthropy plan often tend to stay more committed to their charitable giving and make a bigger impact. It’s important to quantify your company’s contribution. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said their company doesn’t track individual giving or volunteer hours, and 43% don’t measure the ROI or impact of their charitable investments.

This suggests room for improvement, as quantifying your company’s (and employees’) contributions helps create a sense of pride and accomplishment across your business, while also providing benchmarks for future philanthropic efforts and goals. 

 

Measure Your Philanthropy ROI

Return-on-investment (ROI) is a critical measuring stick in business – but it can be just as important for a company’s philanthropy program. If one of your goals is employee engagement, for example, your company should measure that in terms of volunteer hours and other contributions. 

One survey respondent commented, “There is no ROI from charitable contributions.” Few respondents agree with this, as demonstrated by the results themselves: Among the motivations for giving, companies look to reinforce workplace culture, help attract and retain employees, enhance employee skills, and increase revenue and market share. 

 

When in Doubt, Give Financial Support

Among survey respondents, monetary donations are the most popular way to contribute to nonprofits (85% cited this method) – and for good reason. Most nonprofits simply cannot survive without financial support. Mission Capital’s Pulse Survey identified “funding & financial support” as the top need for local nonprofits. 

Your company’s contributions can help nonprofits allocate resources and provide critical services where they are needed most. 

Growing Good Team at Accelerist CSR Summit

Hosted by Accelerist, “Building the Future … on Purpose!” was a virtual half-day summit celebrating the successes and impact of purpose-driven companies across the country. Attendees learned insights, best practices, and practical tips from leaders who built their own CSR programs from the ground up. Our Growing Good team presented on the importance of measuring our corporate giving impact and telling the story along the way:

Full line-up of speakers:

Our presenters touched on a range of topics including how to navigate CSR discussions in a pandemic world, the benefit of investing in social impact, the changing culture of the workplace, practical tips on how to up-level your own CSR program, how to measure impact, and more.

Red Fan Communications: Give What You Have

Since the pandemic hit, the team at Red Fan Communications has worked with client Fluence Bioengineering to donate to Austin-based organizations in need, including a donation of 1,000 water bottles and another donation of masks.

The team also launched the Mike & Sherry Project alongside Sam Hellman Mass of client restaurant Suerte to provide mental health support to Austin’s restaurant workers – Red Fan helped secure more than $40K in donations from local companies, and as of just May 2020 more than 1,000 appointments had been booked. The Mike & Sherry Project is now the beneficiary of the Statesman Cap10K, the largest 10K race in Texas and the 6th-largest in the nation.

Red Fan’s team is also continuing to provide a series of free online roundtable sessions with Austin accelerators and VC cohorts to help them navigate their messaging and providing tips on what to do to promote their companies during the COVID pandemic, as well as scheduling free 1:1 consultation sessions with companies in need of advice and ideas.

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