3 Ways to Focus Your Corporate Philanthropy Locally

Interested in improving employee engagement? It's time to consider the benefits of helping your community through philanthropy.

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Charitable giving is on the upswing, as according to the National Philanthropic Trust, individuals and businesses have increased their support of causes between 2020 and 2021. As a result, annual corporate philanthropy numbers rose 23.8% to top $21 billion.

If you’re a business leader, you know the many benefits of doing good through charitable donations. Establishing a reputation for generosity can become a powerful brand differentiator. After all, a consumer pulse-check survey from Harris Poll shows that 82% of shoppers want to align their purchases with purpose. Showing people that you’re putting more than words behind your stated mission can sway buyers, especially ones looking for more than just a transactional exchange.

Another significant advantage of doing good as an organization is that it allows your employees to feel more connected to your company. With employee engagement hovering around 34% per Gallup, you need to pull all your levers to keep talented workers satisfied. So it only makes sense to consider multiple avenues to make a bigger impact.

Yet you don’t have to think globally. In fact, you may get more mileage out of keeping some of your giving local. The community that surrounds your headquarters is helping you thrive in one way or another. Why not help it in return? The following techniques can be great springboards to jettison regional philanthropic initiatives.

1. Donate what your business offers.

You’ve built your business around a product, service, or perhaps both. No matter what you’re offering, you could make a donation in your area.

Take Panera’s Day-End Dough-Nation® program. Rather than throw away baked goods, Panera stores donate them to specific nonprofit organizations. The company estimates it has given away no less than $100 million in items during the time that Day-End Dough-Nation has been in existence.

Remember that donations don’t have to be as tangible as bread or muffins, though. Giving away free subscriptions to your proprietary software or sending your cleaning business’s employees to a newly built Habitat for Humanity house can fill needs, too.

2. Pay team members to volunteer.

Your employees probably have many charities they support. However, they may have trouble finding time to volunteer. That’s where a formal corporate volunteering program can fit in.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Jessica Rodell of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business estimates that almost half of all companies have volunteer programs. From her experience, she believes that volunteering is a dependable way to increase internal performance. Rodell explains, “A study I conducted in 2013 showed that the more people volunteered (even if it was on their own time instead of on company time), the better they performed on work tasks.”

Of course, you’ll want to set clear parameters around covering volunteering hours. For instance, decide how many personal volunteer hours per quarter or year you can afford to cover, as well as how those hours will be tracked. That way, everything will run smoothly, and you’ll have data to measure the success of your volunteer program.

3. Link up with state and regional agencies.

You aren’t expected to reinvent the wheel when it comes to determining the largest need in your community. Chances are good that some state and local agencies have already done the legwork. Nevertheless, they could use some assistance from your business in meeting their missions.

Susan Morrisey, president and CEO at SE2, a Colorado-based integrated communications and marketing agency, recommends being open-minded about the ways you can contribute to agencies’ causes. She also encourages all businesses to explore collaborations to share resources and maximize outcomes. “The solution comes in working to advance shared objectives across departments and programs, helping to achieve greater collective impact,” Morrisey writes in GovLoop.

Never worked with an agency before? It’s OK to start small. Pick one agency with a vision that aligns with your brand’s vision. Then, set up an appointment to talk. You never know how far a little crowdsourced philanthropy can go.

After the upheaval of the pandemic, communities everywhere need some serious backing. Today, you have the opportunity to add deeper meaning to your business while improving the places you and your employees are proud to call home.

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.