Giving Back (Strategically)

Businesses, large and small, and in every industry, often give back to their communities in the form of monetary or in-kind donations, volunteer time or through a foundation. Do you know how your company gives back?

The reasons vary as to why companies donate time, money or products to a local charity or a cause. It could be a favorite of the CEO; the company could have ties to a local non-profit, or it may be left up to individual employees to choose the organizations to which they donate, often with the company matching employees’ donations dollar for dollar. Giving back can make a company’s employees feel good about working there, enhance the company’s positive image and provide tax benefits for the company.

Companies that think strategically by donating money, time or products may also find that their generosity can also benefit their bottom line.

Technology companies such as Google and Microsoft run community programs that align with their business models. This includes educating school children about computer programming or donating computers. Some technology companies provide equipment or technological expertise to non-profit organizations that need technology for operations, fundraising or outreach communications.

Food and beverage producers rely on a steady stream of high-quality inputs needed to produce their products whether it’s water for soft drinks or ingredients for hummus. Pepsi’s philanthropic causes include sustainable agriculture and access to clean water. The Love & Hummus Company, a Certified B Corp based in San Francisco, donates to K-12 education-based organizations that support school garden programs.

Some companies such as MarketPoint, a strategic marketing and communications company based in Harford, Maryland, have adopted a three-tiered strategy of giving employees paid volunteer time, donating a portion of their revenues and providing products and services to deserving non-profit organizations.

Laura Pasternak, MarketPoint’s Principal and Chief Strategist explained her company’s strategy for giving back. “Since our inception, MarketPoint has believed in giving back to the community. But we were ad hoc in our approach. We wanted a way to ensure that as we grew, our contributions to the community – through financial donations, time and pro bona work – grew with us. Our 1-2-3 CSR Initiative puts a framework to our charitable work and ensures that all team members understand the targets and personally contribute to our corporate social responsibility efforts.”

Pasternak offered advice for companies who want to establish a CSR program. “Involve your employees in the process and define criteria that works for you.  Establishing metrics and goals provides clarity for the effort and communicates to employees the value your organization places on giving back to the community.”  

For those companies that are pursuing or have achieved Certified B Corp status, incorporating a strategic giving program into their business plans is a no brainer. Certified B Corp companies benefit all stakeholders – community, workers, suppliers, customers and the environment – not just shareholders. They are profitable businesses that also contribute to building an inclusive economy where everyone thrives.

BetterWorld Telecom, a founding B Corp based in Reston, Virginia, supports the community by donating 3% of its revenues to charities supporting children, education, the environment and fair trade. More than 75% of employees take paid time off to volunteer for community service and more than 10% of the company’s suppliers are located in low-income communities. James Kenefick, BetterWorld Telecom’s Chairman, says, “the B Corp movement shows us that business can be a driving agent of change.”

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