A private foundation’s core business is the thoughtful and strategic giving of grant funds to the nonprofit organizations that will best advance community prosperity. A for-profit company’s core business is driving the success of the enterprise — fulfilling a market need, offering the goods and services that will lead to a healthy bottom line.
Yet in Northeast Ohio, many of our for-profit businesses also make it their business to engage in meaningful philanthropy. In today’s era of global competition, shorter business cycles and disruptive technology that changes the game almost daily, one might forgive businesses for sticking to their knitting and passing on corporate philanthropy. The fact that corporate philanthropy is alive and well given these challenges and demands is cause for celebration.
Today’s businesses understand that corporate giving enables them to achieve many goals. At the most rudimentary level, corporate giving is great marketing. Each gift affords a business the opportunity to get its name in front of a lot of eyeballs, building brand awareness and goodwill.
Businesses cite corporate giving as a key means of showing gratitude to the community where they sell their wares, rely on customers’ loyalty and patronage, and draw their employee talent. Increasingly, businesses are becoming more targeted and strategic with their giving, focusing their grants on causes that reinforce key strategies or address problems that affect their business.
Additionally, many corporate philanthropy programs are going deeper within their target strategy areas, making fewer, larger grants to advance a small set of priorities rather than taking a buckshot approach.
Today’s businesses also recognize that they can offer a unique “fringe benefit” to their employees through corporate giving and voluntarism. Offering workers paid time off to volunteer in the community with co-workers advances a company’s community engagement goals and builds ties within the employee team.
In Greater Akron, our United Way campaign is evidence of corporate generosity. Last year, the United Way of Summit County set a record, raising $12.2 million. Those dollars were deployed to advance high-impact programs in education, income and health. Businesses plowed investment back into the community that has enabled them to thrive and grow through United Way, the conduit that aligned those investments for critical mass, backing proven initiatives.
Business has also stepped up to support a unique moment in our region’s history: Northeast Ohio’s hosting of Gay Games 9. From industry heavyweights to local mom and pop operations, over 160 companies stepped up to support the event, enabling the region to put its best foot forward in the international spotlight.
Can our businesses do even more? Sure. Can they deepen their commitment to key areas like education and arts and culture? Indeed. Can they deploy more leadership talent in service of quality community organizations? Absolutely! We have a well-established culture of corporate generosity in this region, a culture that pays dividends on all sides by making this the kind of place where businesses, and their employees and customers, want to be.