The Business Case for Philanthropy – What to Consider Before and After You Give
November 4, 2021
By Sarah Kelliher
As we enter the season of giving, many companies are shifting their focus toward philanthropy and brainstorming how they can give back to local organizations, customers and communities in need.
Like any business decision, choosing the right philanthropic strategy for your organization should never be a shot in the dark. To generate buy-in from internal team members and external audiences, a company’s philanthropic decisions should align with its overall mission, vision and organizational goals.
At Curley & Pynn, we have the privilege of working with clients that prioritize giving year-round. When our team is called upon to support our clients with philanthropic decisions, we always keep a few key practices top-of-mind to help them successfully announce the initiative and tactfully gain exposure while maintaining appropriate focus on the purpose of their gift and the recipient or cause it supports.
Remember Your “Why”
Before your organization makes any decisions about how to give, start with why.
The best philanthropic endeavors advance your mission by shining a light on the people, places and causes that make the world a better place. When deciding to give, remember that it’s about the potential to create positive change, not the money you can earn or profile you can build. It should stem from a genuine desire to help others – not to “look good” or generate publicity.
This is crucial to keep in mind not only when it comes to public perception, but also your bottom line. Research from Edelman shows that 71% of people agree if they perceive a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in them forever.
Stick to What You Know
Once you have a firm understanding of why you want to give, then it’s time to think about how. This may seem like the most complex step of the philanthropic process, but it doesn’t have to be.
When deciding where and how to give, start by asking yourself:
- Who is our audience?
- What do they need?
- What do they care about?
- How can we help?
By asking these questions, you can leverage some of what you already know about your target market to create positive change they may not expect. Your marketing team has already conducted extensive research about your audience, their needs, and even their habits. Use that information to your advantage when developing your next philanthropic strategy and make a decision that will carry real-world impact for your brand’s constituents.
Engage Your Team
Before publicly launching any philanthropic effort, it’s essential to get your internal team members on board to help make it a success. Philanthropy is a statement of your corporate values. By allocating resources to a specific cause, you are signaling to employees what you think is important. So, make sure to include them in the decision or, at the very least, consider their best interests as part of the process.
Effectively engaging your team in giving efforts can pay off in the long run, too. Research from Fortune’s Best Workplaces list found that those who had a positive experience of helping give back at work were four times more likely to go the extra mile in their day-to-day jobs.
This is also an important time to think of your employees as brand ambassadors. Engaged employees are more likely to spread the word about what you’re doing. Especially if they are in a customer-facing role, employees are often best-positioned to act as messengers for your brand.
Keeping in mind the power of organic social media marketing, enlist the support of your social media team to develop pre-drafted copy, graphics and videos for your employees to share. Doing so will equip your employees with the assets they need to properly promote the philanthropic initiative, while ensuring messaging remains consistent.
Don’t Be Overly Promotional
While promoting your corporate philanthropy can build trust and bolster your reputation among two of your most important audiences (employees and customers), it requires a delicate balance between promotion of your company and promotion of the cause or charity your company supports. You don’t want to steal the spotlight or inadvertently send the message that you donated just for publicity.
Recently, we were faced with this challenge while helping Lake Apopka Natural Gas District (LANGD) build awareness for its first customer assistance fund: LANGD’s Helping Hand. Established in partnership with Heart of Florida United Way, the fund was created to help natural gas customers struggling to pay their bills due to COVID-related furloughs and layoffs. In just four months, generous donations from LANGD’s board of directors, partners and other customers grew the fund to over $5,000.
We needed to build awareness of the program among local customers who could benefit from financial support and capitalized on the opportunity to remind stakeholders about LANGD’s mission to “be a good neighbor.” Along with issuing a news release to media reaching customers in LANGD’s service area, we helped garner recognition for employees involved in the effort. To our delight, just yesterday, LANGD was recognized as a winner in AT&T and Government Technology Magazine’s Special Districts Awards for its innovation and leadership in customer service.
Thanks to LANGD’s ability to build on its “why,” leverage key pre-existing marketing research and engage employees, the utility earned national brand exposure, all while serving its most important audience: customers.
As you prepare to give, remember that philanthropy is much more than a donation. By asking the right questions, you have the power to create real, positive change for your target audience while boosting brand awareness and bolstering your reputation in the process. Happy giving!