Charitable Endeavors: SMBs Can Think Big4:00 PM EST Fri. Dec. 14, 2012
While multinational companies such as IBM, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Salesforce.com and others have sophisticated corporate social responsibility initiatives, there is a huge opportunity for midsize and smaller businesses to make their own mark with community initiatives and programs.
If you're considering a corporate philanthropy or community engagement program at your own organization, here are a few things to think about as you approach the endeavor.
NO. 1: SIZE DOESN'T MATTER
Yes, large organizations have the resources and the dollars to make substantive positive change, but that shouldn't discourage a smaller organization from thinking big.
"Midsize companies have a bigger opportunity to speak to their employees and ask them what is important to them. Many of these initiatives start at the top down, and why not from the bottom up?" said Susan Spector McPherson, senior vice president and director of global brand for Fenton, a company that develops public interest campaigns for clients.
"The first step is to simply put out the question, identify stakeholders and give them tools to do so. It is not rocket science. Put a value on it and make it a part of their performance," said McPherson.
NO. 2: BE STRATEGIC WITH YOUR PHILANTHROPY OR COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT EFFORTS
"Companies need to align their business strategies with their community engagement. By doing so, it forces them to be more purposeful in their efforts," said Dan McQuaid, CEO of One OC, a training and volunteering organization in California.
When creating a corporate social responsibility strategy, an organization needs to ask itself a few questions. What is the purpose of getting involved? Do you want to position yourself in the market because of customers? Do you want it to help with employee engagement and recruitment?
Once you define the purpose, then what is the vision? And what is your goal? Once you answer these questions, you can develop an effective strategy, said McQuaid.
NO. 3: PARTNER WITH ORGANIZATIONS WHERE YOU CAN HAVE THE MOST IMPACT
As you head into the new year, bring in local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to teach you about an issue. "I am not suggesting that the American Cancer Society or the American Red Cross are not good organizations, but the experience is more intimate if you are in the location and involved with a local nonprofit," said McPherson.
By partnering with a local organization you can see the true impact of your efforts.
"You are going to get more bang for your buck, be a large fish in a small pond and there is nothing wrong with that," said McPherson.
"Experiences within our own communities build empathy and it enables a business to be better able to serve a market," said Jackie Norris, executive director, the Points of Light Corporate Institute. "If I have gone out to my community and to my potential customers, I may gain a better understanding of what their needs might be."
NEXT: Leveraging Internal Resources To Help
NO. 4: LOOK AT YOUR COMPANY'S CORE COMPETENCIES AND HOW YOU CAN LEVERAGE THESE SKILLS TO HELP OTHERS
Companies are thinking about how to best invest in community, said Norris. "They are thinking about the role the employees play in the community, they are thinking about how they can help and serve on boards of nonprofits and how they can commit funds to nonprofits and focus all their solutions toward it."
"If you are in the technology space, can you train nonprofits on things such as coding or could you offer your skills and services to their organization?" said McPherson.
Companies need to consider whether their efforts are aligned with their business model. "A company needs to set the parameters and galvanize the intellectual property that it has and the brains of its employees," said McPherson.
No. 5: DON'T FORGET TO CONSIDER THE HIDDEN BENEFITS
Beyond giving back, there is upside for your organization. First, you are enhancing your reputation as a company and people are inclined to spend more on a product if they think the organization is helping the world, said McPherson. Another added benefit is a happier workforce that feels good about the work they are doing for you and the nonprofit. This can help also help with productivity, recruitment and employee retention. The added benefit: You have the potential to actually improve the bottom line, she said.
What's more, it can help motivate, recruit and empower a younger workforce. "Millennials are wanting to do more," said Norris. "The millennials want fast track leadership, and community engagement is an interesting way to satiate that desire. They can lead on these projects when they aren't quite ready to lead a project in the business. The result is that they are gaining confidence in their abilities or others have more confidence in their abilities."