Invest in Purpose
Invest in Your
Non-profits make great partners.
Of the estimated $427+ billion in charitable giving in the U.S. in 2018, corporations account for nearly 5.5% of the total. While this may not seem like an impressive number, corporate giving can have a significant impact to the bottom line of the nonprofit receiving financial support. There are myriad reasons that corporations give, from the less altruistic tax deduction aspect to the more intentional and authentic desire many companies have to support organizations working to achieve mission-related goals. Establishing meaningful partnerships with nonprofits can enhance your company’s image, making the company more attractive to consumers and employees, while simultaneously addressing critical social and environmental needs.
Why Businesses Give:
Giving is good for business. Charitable giving has numerous benefits for corporations. It’s a great way to support the local communities on which businesses depend. Many nonprofit organizations provide marketing and PR benefits to their corporate partners. Giving to nonprofits helps brands amplify the work of others in support of causes they care deeply about. Purpose-driven companies who take authentic action on important social and environmental issues are more attractive to consumers and potential employees.
Do Your Homework:
With over 1.6 million 501(c)(3) organizations in the U.S., choosing the right cause partners takes a little work. Some questions to consider when selecting a nonprofit include:
What is the purpose of my giving? Who are your stakeholders? Selecting causes that senior leadership and employees feel passionate about and that align with the corporate mission is the obvious place to start, but also taking time to think about issues that your consumers care about can boost your brand image.
What am I trying to achieve (i.e. reduce hunger, fund education improve access to clean water, fight climate change, address social or environmental injustices), and how does the work of particular nonprofit support these goals? Figuring out what issues or problems you hope to solve through your giving can help you narrow down the list of potential nonprofit partners significantly.
Do I want my dollars to go to work in my local community or is a national or international approach more appropriate? Companies with global operations or heavy reliance on international supply chains may consider global partners or build local partnerships on the ground where their factories are. Examples include building infrastructure or supporting efforts to ensure fair working conditions or regenerative agriculture in the communities where they source their goods.
How can I tie the company’s giving to solving problems created by the negative externalities of doing business? Consumer goods companies are increasingly coming under scrutiny for their environmental impacts related to climate change, packaging, and plastic pollution. Supporting causes that improve recycling infrastructure, clean up the oceans and waterways, or offset carbon can show consumers that companies are taking responsibility for their environmental impacts.
What benefits does a cause partner offer the company in return for its financial support? Companies seeking authentic relationships with partners will want to identify partners who have opportunities for them to get involved beyond simply making a monetary donation. Does the nonprofit offer educational and volunteer opportunities for company staff? Is there a way to support advocacy efforts? It’s important to understand how to leverage the expertise of the cause partner to amplify mission-related work—it’s not all about marketing and PR (although that certainly helps!).
Once you’ve homed in on what types of causes you want to support, it’s time to play the “dating game.” Not all nonprofits are created equal, so you’ll want to vet any organizations you are considering against a trusted third-party source such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar. Connect with different organizations by having a series of dialogues to understand how they put your dollars to work and what a partnership would look like. Make sure there is a personal connection with the organization and that they are responsive to your requests for calls and information.
If environmental causes are the primary recipient of a company’s giving strategy, it is worth exploring 1% for the Planet membership. 1% for the Planet was founded on the notion that because companies profit from the resources they take from the earth, they should protect those resources. A 1% business member commits to giving 1% of annual sales to approved environmental nonprofits. Becoming a 1% member can enhance your brand image; a growing demographic of conscious consumers want to spend money on and work for companies that have a social or environmental purpose.
Do More Than Write the Check:
If a company is interested in seeing the true ROI of their charitable giving, it is crucial to build deep relationships with the cause partners. Corporations have tremendous power—to sway political opinions, influence consumers—and taking an active role in advancing the work of cause partners can bring the mission of the nonprofit to new audiences and really amplify impact. Consider giving your employees a certain amount of paid time off each year to volunteer with nonprofit partners. Encourage your company’s sphere of influence to participate in activations hosted by the nonprofit such as beach cleanups or writing letters of support for advocacy efforts. Stay in regular communication with your cause partners and be vocal about what your charitable support is helping to accomplish.
By taking the time to understand where your corporate giving can have the most impact and aligning your company with the right cause partners, you can elevate your brand while effecting real and meaningful change.
Our team at Planet+Purpose Solutions is dedicated to helping organizations launch their sustainability initiatives and coaching leaders into becoming champions of change. We all need to work together to tackle our collective environmental impact and our team hopes this series of articles will help with those first critical steps of your organization’s journey.