This is a guest post by:
Rachel Hutchisson, director of corporate citizenship & philanthropy at Blackbaud, Inc. and founder/blogger for Business Doing Good.
Reach her on Twitter: @RachelHutchssn
You would have to be living under a rock these days not to know that people are looking for real meaning in their work. A job isn’t “just a job” anymore. It’s also an opportunity to do good. That’s right. Employees are out there seeking both to make a good living and improve the state of the community at the same time. Some businesses, especially new ones, are starting from this vantage point, wrapping in a “social impact” thread (or more) into their plans and their brands. A big-company example of this is TOMS Shoes. A smaller company following a similar model is 2 Degrees Food.
There are many other businesses – those that were formed when “doing good” seemed the exclusive purview of nonprofits or the public sector – that might not have this “good” thing figured out. If you’re in that category, don’t worry. You CAN engineer the good into the business from where you are today, beginning with a focus on how you give back. Employees today are walking in the door expecting their companies to be engaged, so here are five steps to follow that will help your firm catch up.
Before you create anything, brainstorm or make decisions, stop to figure out what your business has been doing in the past. Even if you haven’t had a conscious giving program, you probably have been making donations. Nonprofits in the community have approached you about sponsoring their events or donating your products, groups have asked you to be a supporting member…you know the drill. So do your research, looking through your marketing, HR, community relations and even “CEO discretionary fund” budgets to figure out what you have already done.
With this information as background, get a group of people together who understand the business and the brand to talk about the approach you want to take with future donations. Do you have a strong history with a certain nonprofit or cause? Do you offer products or services that naturally align with a need (ex: a food company and a food bank working against hunger)? Are you located in a community where there is a specific need (ex: is there a large population of non-native-language speakers who could benefit from a nonprofit’s service)? Does your brand naturally align with something (ex: a green roof company supporting environmental sustainability for homeowners), and so on. There is no right answer.
Make sure you build in time to ask the people who work for you or with you what they care about. In the past, it was pretty typical for “the boss” to make the decision about giving. Today, businesses are looking to their people to chime in. Going back to where we began, employees truly care about how their employers give, so asking them for their opinions is a great way to get feedback and increase engagement. Send an online survey to everyone who works for you. Make sure it’s easy to answer and works on a variety of mobile devices, ensuring you get a good response rate (if the survey is lengthy and complicated, people won’t answer). With this data, added to the information you gathered in the first two steps, you are now ready to make some decisions.
Although this might sound funny, it’s probably easiest to begin by establishing what your business WILL NOT give to. For example, will you support political causes or organizations that preach a religious doctrine? If not, then make that a part of your formal guidelines. Choosing what you WILL give to is a bit more complicated, but if your business is like most others, the insights your employees shared will be invaluable. Look at the survey results to see if there are logical candidates for causes to back. Look at your history. And think about what your brand is all about. As you do this, your giving priorities will become clear, I promise.
With a decision in hand about the types of causes you’d like to support, take the time to tell your community. This is important both so those asking for money can see if you are aligned with them AND because your giving is a part of your story. Although it’s natural to feel a little sorry when you have to say no to a request for a donation, you should feel PROUD to talk about what you do support, how you work to make change. Don’t shy away from the good simply because you have to say “no” a little more often than you’d like. Remember, as you are creating messaging about how you give, to add it to your website, the biggest brand window you have. Also, look at the website as a way for nonprofits to connect with you, using a form to submit requests or inquiries, thus creating a better, cleaner process for people to use and simplifying your life!
For more tips on how to build a give-back program into your business, check out Business Doing Good.
Image courtesy: thanunkorn/FreeDigitalPhotos