The recent INBOUND conference inspired me to think about PMG as a corporate citizen and not just as a marketing agency. As I've processed my thoughts and ideas around this concept, I inevitably find myself thinking of our clients and how doing good is not just the right thing to do, it can contribute to business growth—but only if an organization is strategic about it.
How Giving Back Reaps Business Rewards—and Not Just a Tax Break
Of course there is a direct financial benefit to donating to charitable causes in the form of a tax break—and as a recent New York Times report highlighted, there may be political benefits to charity as well. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on other rewards that can have just as powerful of a financial impact.
People feel good about buying from and working for companies that care. Millennials, in particular, are outspoken about their commitment to use their $2.45 trillion in purchasing power with charitable companies. Seventy percent of them report they will spend more with brands that support worthwhile causes.
"How can a business be a force for good and not just for profit?"
— John Foraker & Jennifer Garner, Once Upon a Farm
Doing good can help your firm recruit top talent and create a positive workplace culture. Besides generating a "feel good" vibe of working for a caring company, The Undercover Recruiter reports it also creates opportunities to support your team building, professional development, and wellness initiatives. And Glassdoor, a top job and recruiting site, recently highlighted 13 companies that give back and are in hiring mode.
The press also loves "feel good" stories, and when pitched appropriately, your company's giving can boost your brand's visibility in the most positive ways.
Good Citizenship Is Already Happening
You and your employees are most likely already doing good in your communities. Our PMG team members, for example, do bike rides, walks, and road races to raise money to fight hunger, cancer and ALS; serve at animal shelters, food pantries, and camps for disadvantaged children; and contribute financially to a variety of charitable causes.
Our client Greater Boston Urology organizes a team to participate in the annual Zero Prostate Cancer Run/Walk—this year, the team had a $20,000 fundraising goal. And our colleague Ryan Shelley of SMA Marketing established a micro loan through Kiva to support small businesses in poor areas around the globe.
4 Keys to a Successful Corporate Giving Program1. Decide on the structure of your giving program—whether it will involve supporting individual charitable efforts by employees through matching donations or paid time off; rallying around one company cause to support as an organization; or a combination of both.
Disney VoluntEARS is an excellent example of an organization supporting local community, rallying around a cause and giving employees some freedom to choose their own causes.
2. If you decide to choose a company-wide cause, consider connecting with something relevant to what you do, like Stella Artois is doing by supporting clean drinking water or like Warby Parker's Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program is doing by making eyeglasses more accessible to people in developing countries. Supporting community causes—the schools, hospitals, and environment—can also make sense for businesses with a local footprint.
3. Identify ways you can include all of your key audiences into your efforts—not just your employees, but your vendors and customers as well. Are vendors willing to make a donation to your cause instead of sending a gift basket at holiday time? Will your customers appreciate a report of how a portion of the money they paid you each year supported a worthwhile initiative?
4. Showcase what you are doing, and celebrate your efforts. Without spreading the word about your charitable efforts, you'll fail to gain the full benefits possible—from attracting top talent to creating a feel-good customer community, from engaging top prospects to generating positive brand visibility overall.
Include your commitment to charitable work on your website and social channels. Your Careers and Press pages are great places to include stories, videos, and images of your company's good works. Incorporate your commitment into sales proposals and presentations as part of your organization's values. And promote what you're doing in social media posts, company communications, and press releases.
At INBOUND, John Foraker, co-founder and CEO of Once Upon a Farm, told a story of how, at a former company he had highlighted the rainbow flag on the business's social channels to support the LGBTQ community and received some opposition to the gesture.
His response at the time was that his company was committed to diversity and inclusion and if people did not want to do business with them, then they were free to go elsewhere and that was their right. But his firm was not going to be quiet in its support.
While there are certainly causes that almost everyone can rally around—cancer research, for example—there are others that can create some controversy. It's up to your organization to decide how far you will go down a certain path when thinking about your corporate causes, but I will say John Foraker definitely reminded me that it's okay to take a stand, too.