5 Keys for Impactful Corporate Giving Programs

’Tis the season for giving.

GivingTuesday is upon us, marking the start of the holiday giving season. Held on November 30th this year, the internationally recognized day of giving is an opportunity for individuals and organizations to express generosity by giving their time, money, and voices to support communities and causes.

Social movements such as GivingTuesday (a Kindred member company) provide opportunities for businesses to amplify their support for social causes. Some organizations show this support by matching individual donations from employees and customers (see H&M this year). Others may choose to make outright donations, such as Food Lion, which is donating 1 million meals to Feeding America.

Acts of corporate giving like these are a key aspect of a company’s corporate responsibility strategy. Corporate giving programs have long served as a way for organizations to give back and engage employees. Today’s stakeholders, particularly employees, are paying close attention to how organizations function as a force for good in the communities in which they operate. 

For example, a Fidelity Investments’ survey of 1,200 workers found that 66% feel it is important for companies to support different causes. Another 42% value workplace giving programs in which employers match employee charitable contributions. 

In the new work reality where keeping employees engaged is top of mind for employers, corporate giving programs are an opportunity to reinforce the organization’s commitments. And with the holiday season upon us, now is a good time to revisit existing plans to ensure they align with your values and achieve their intended impact.

Defining Your Corporate Giving Programs

While corporate giving programs are an important part of building socially responsible companies, they should not be a company’s only response to the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues today’s organizations face. It is important for leaders to also consider how the impact their business practices have on local communities, the environment, and their employees. 

When it comes to developing corporate giving programs, organizations have a few options on how to execute. These may include monetary contributions, in-kind donations of products and services, employee matching, or volunteering opportunities. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed the way organizations perform charitable activities, leading to increased remote volunteering opportunities or a focus on acts of kindness.

Companies like Adobe, for instance, offer a combination of options for employees, including matching grants, volunteer hours, and partnerships with local organizations. Many large organizations such as Target and Campbell’s also set up foundations to help oversee their social impact efforts. 

Regardless of what option works best for your organization, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

1. Identify your key issues.

When developing an impactful charitable giving strategy, the first step is to identify the key societal issues your organization wants to tackle. These issues should be aligned with your corporate purpose. For instance, if your organization is in the food industry, supporting organizations that tackle nutrition or food insecurity may be a good area of focus. 

Frameworks such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals offer a good starting point for organizations looking to begin or expand a corporate giving program.

When identifying issues, it is crucial for leaders to gather information on the issues relevant to their organization’s local communities. Having a cohesive strategy around your organization’s charitable giving approach gives employees a better understanding of core issues and provides clarity on the philanthropic vision.

2. Focus on the local community.

At a recent Kindred event on approaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), panelists emphasized the importance of engaging directly with local communities in achieving the SDGs. By doing so, leaders can better understand key areas of concern and establish solutions that work in the local context. 

The same approach should apply when developing corporate giving programs. One criticism of corporate philanthropy is the disconnect between programs decided at headquarters and the realities of local communities. Leaders should empower local offices (where applicable) and work with local community leaders and organizations to develop giving strategies.

3. Establish clear guardrails.

Part of ensuring the success of a corporate giving program is setting clear and transparent guidelines around how employees and the organization will participate. For instance, if your organization provides grants toward specific projects, outline details such as who is eligible to receive corporate gifts, who makes decisions, eligibility criteria, and company involvement in overseeing the project. 

In addition, establish clear conflict of interest policies and ensure that the nonprofits receiving the funds are aligned with the organization’s values. For instance, some companies may restrict donations to political groups, religious organizations, or organizations with discriminatory practices, regardless of employee affiliation.

4. Empower employees to participate.

Corporate giving programs can provide an avenue to help combat the burnout and stress many employees currently face. 

As employee experience expert Mark Levy noted at a recent Kindred Assembly, “Regardless of where you are, employees are really interested in the social impact that a company has, and the ways in which the company allows and enables their employees to get involved in giving back. This is another way we can try to help stave the burnout and keep people engaged by really doubling down on what the company stands for, what’s important to you and your employees, and giving them an opportunity to give back.”

In that vein, organizations should ensure that their efforts are employee-driven and empower employees to give back to local communities. Some opportunities include matching employee contributions, offering grants to organizations where employees volunteer, providing paid time to volunteer or company-wide days of service, or enabling employees to serve on boards.

5. Report publicly on charitable giving.

As your company implements its giving strategy, consider how you will report publicly on charitable giving in order to demonstrate transparency and track progress. Reporting on charitable giving in your sustainability or social responsibility report signals to stakeholders that company leaders are committed to making a positive impact. Some key details to disclose include areas of impact, how much was given, and to which organizations. In addition, break down employee contribution matches, donations from employees and customers to support specific efforts, and in-kind contributions.

Ensuring the success of your corporate giving program involves leadership buy-in, employee engagement, and a community focus. For these efforts to be impactful, leaders should align issues to values, establish clear guidelines, and empower employees to get involved.

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Published on November 30, 2021