Some companies make impromptu, ad hoc donations to causes that are supported by a few employees, but have no relevance to the company. Others select favoured charities and regularly donate to these.
Strategic charitable giving programmes differentiate themselves as being focused on addressing specific issues, ideally which are material to the business and often combine both financial and non-financial contributions. Companies bring the large scale of their resources — cash, employee time, products and services — and focus them on those issues to maximise the difference the business can make.
Charitable giving can involve a combination of approaches. Responsible 100 uses the LBG framework for defining charitable giving as “businesses’ voluntary engagement with charitable organisations or activities that extends beyond their core businesses activities”. Giving can be provided through a monetary donation, an in-kind donation of a company’s products, providing professional services pro bono and/or at beneficial rates, and the cost of employee volunteering time during working hours. The cost of managing community programmes can also be included, such the cost of helping staff to give easily. While not a direction contribution, businesses can claim as ‘leverage’ the amount their employees give through fundraising or payroll giving. More information on the LBG framework is available at www.lbg-online.net.
Some businesses link monetary donations with employee participation. An employee volunteering scheme may include regular voluntary activity by employees that is supported by the company. This might, for example, be giving staff members paid time off to undertake voluntary work, incorporating volunteering into a personal development scheme, setting up charitable programmes that offer staff the opportunity to volunteer, or corporate matching of employee giving and volunteering. Employee volunteering has the potential to benefit all those involved, for example by providing employees the opportunity to work and learn outside their usual work environment, increasing staff morale and work performance for the employer, and increasing goodwill across the community.
In the long-term, aligning organisational values with giving will ideally lend consistency and strength to the company brand while also addressing real needs. Taking a strategic approach is also likely to lend to vibrant and sustainable partnerships between a company and the charitable organisations it works with.