Strategic philanthropy

A recent survey on corporate community involvement found that 72 percent of employed Americans would choose to work for a company that supports charitable causes when deciding between two jobs with a similar location, responsibilities, pay and benefits.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, revealed that 92 percent of Americans think it is important for companies to make charitable contributions or donate products and/or services to nonprofit organizations in the community

But is writing checks to charity or making in-kind donations to nonprofits enough to be a good corporate citizen these days?

Probably not. Employees also have a strong desire to know their efforts and dollars, not just their employers’, are being applied to a cause they believe in. According to the survey, 87 percent of respondents say it’s important for companies to offer volunteer opportunities to employees. Those opportunities could be a team-related effort, such as having employees spend the day building a house for Habitat for Humanity, or it could be more personal, such as giving employees time off each year to donate their time to causes they believe in.

Either way, 58 percent say they believe those opportunities go a long way toward improving overall employee morale.

That’s a powerful message, but there are other issues to consider when developing a corporate community involvement plan.

How can you ensure that you don’t spread your efforts too thin by tackling too many causes? Often, business owners give to multiple causes and don’t look at the actual number they’re working with. Such a strategy dilutes the potential impact your organization can make.

And, don’t forget to involve your employees in this decision. You’d be amazed how much loyalty, and good faith you’ll build with your staff if you ask them what issues interest them most. Then identify a cause or two, pick a nonprofit with a mission you and your staff believe in and get behind it. Build a multipronged approach that combines volunteerism, and in-kind and financial donations.

It may not increase your sales, boost your bottom line or expand your market share, but the intangible benefits of corporate philanthropy are immeasurable. When you help make your community a better place, it’s something you’ll never regret