Corporate Charity: Big decisions before writing that big check

Corporate Charity: Big decisions before writing that big check

Behind today’s charitable “big checks” there’s so much more than just a signature. No longer is a company’s giving limited to the CEO writing a check, posing for a photo with the recipient organization and walking away. Corporate philanthropy has grown up to become a key component of a company’s brand and mission.

As a result, the decision-making that goes into all aspects of who gets your corporate support, as well as how, why and when, has undoubtedly become more complicated. But it shouldn’t be intimidating. Each company needs to follow its own path for establishing its program of giving, but here are a few considerations to set you in the right direction.

1.    Is this consistent with our values and mission? – There are so many incredible organizations doing work that deserve your support. But you can’t help them all. And importantly, only a few may align well with your company. Your first step should be to step back, and review your mission and value statements before making a decision. Can you say that the support you’re about to give helps to forward what is at the core of your brand and vision? 

2.    What do we get in return? – Ok, this may not be the first question that comes to mind when deciding on charitable support. But it’s one that non-profit organizations should expect and welcome hearing. Beyond just a photo opportunity, will the supported organization be able to quantify and benchmark the impact of your involvement? Do they highlight their supporters with logos on their website and do they regularly profile donors in their newsletter and blog?

3.    Are we thinking and acting locally? – We all want to help improve lives around the globe. However, your firm may want to start right outside your door, in your own neighborhood. This is especially true if the vision for your brand is to be integrated with your home community. Let’s put it this way, if you’re constantly mentioning that you’re a [name of city]-based company, you may want to make sure you’re giving back in [name of city].

4.    How are we engaging our employees in this decision? – Is your company driven by a team concept, with a flat structure of ideas and input coming from all directions and levels? Yes, of course, it is, and that’s key to your business growth and thriving culture. So why then would the executive team take a top-down approach to choosing your charity? Instead, survey the team. Ask for the causes and organizations that resonate with them. This will build immediate support internally and create a desire to engage as a group.

5.    Are there any reputation risks? – Not all good deeds get punished. But some do, unfortunately. And the last thing a company wants is for its philanthropic efforts to turn against it. It’s your company’s responsibility to protect itself before offering support of money, time or expertise. Does a possible partner organization use its funds responsibly to directly forward its mission? What are the qualifications AND reputations of the leadership team? Is the organization expanding its mission and activities into areas that might be politically tricky for your firm?

So before your company leaps into something as important as deciding who will be your charitable partners, take the time to ask questions of yourself and them. A healthy bit of giver beware will always benefit your brand.