Nearly every company engages in some form of volunteerism, charitable giving or other form of philanthropy. Employees seek out community-oriented companies and customers expect local businesses to give back. But each business leader has to answer the question, “Where can our corporate giving resources make the biggest difference?” To find the answer, you have to look inward before you extend a helping hand outward.
Creating a Strategy
John Urban, a senior partner with The Philanthropic Initiative, says volunteerism and charitable giving have become such a big part of doing business that you must be proactive, and that means building a philanthropic strategy. “Your goal should be to align your philanthropic strategy with your business strategy,” Urban says. “The first step is to take a look at all of your stakeholders – your vendors, employees, customers, and stockholders – and how they influence your business, which will help you define what causes you want to support. Look at your capabilities as a business, and the ways those capabilities can be utilized to have an impact. You want your people, your goals and your giving to be aligned.”
Using Your Strengths
Before you cut a check, look at what other assets you can offer to a charity or community organization. You might have items or services at your fingertips that could make a huge difference for a worthy cause. “We were advising a supermarket holding company in their philanthropic efforts,” Urban says. “They had a lot of food products on hand that might have gone unsold for various reasons. So we had them look at donating products that were close to the sale date and getting them into the hands of people who could use them before expiration.”
Getting Employees Involved
The inspiration for community service often starts at the bottom of an organization and wells upward. Volunteerism is a motivational tool that can better engage workforce, strengthen culture, and perhaps most importantly, strengthen customer service. Encourage the groundswell and give employees a chance to serve. As with anything else in the workplace, when employees feel their voices are heard and their actions make a real impact, they’re more motivated to perform at a higher level.
Developing and executing a philanthropic strategy comes down to asking a lot of questions – of your employees, your stakeholders and of organizations that might benefit from your giving. Finding the right answers to those questions helps you create strategic alignment, which ensures your dollars and time make the maximum impact.
Dr. Betty Uribe, Executive Vice President, California Bank & Trust