Give to Lincoln Day is coming up, and with a day devoted to community support on the horizon, we can’t help but think about corporate giving. At UBT, we believe it’s particularly important for organizations to give back, impacting the community we inhabit when we can, where we can, and empowering our employees to do the same. We also believe that businesses and corporations of any size are uniquely positioned to make a positive impact: They’re well-versed in optimizing resources, they usually have a team of quality hires who are more than willing to get behind a giving mission, and they have the ability to effectively communicate their efforts. If a company is willing to leverage their strengths to positively impact the neighborhoods they inhabit, corporate giving is a great tool to make lasting change, and it’s not without its perks.
Why have a giving plan?
So much more than a tax break or sneaky advertising, an organized giving plan can be an immense benefit to company image, employee engagement, brand reputation, and financial bottom line. Whether you have a startup organization and philanthropy is a part of your cultural foundation or you’re ready to take your corporate giving to a more formal and organized level, you know that investing in social good in the name of conscious capitalism is a rewarding and worthwhile endeavor. But where do you start? Here, we’ll look at some options for corporate giving, along with tips for selecting causes. You can choose what‘s best for your business.
What does corporate giving entail?
Your giving can be as unique as you and your business, but a corporate giving plan usually comprises one or more of the following programs; which model you embrace will depend upon your company’s size and structure, the company’s culture and objectives, and the causes you wish to support (more about those in a bit).
Charitable donations. Charitable donations allow your organization to have an immediate impact by giving money or goods and services (called in-kind donations) directly to a nonprofit. It requires minimal time and effort, both in structuring and executing the program. Goods and services could be branded merchandise used in a fundraising gift basket, something your company sells or manufactures or offers that could be of use to a nonprofit — even a needed resource, like printing, advertising, or technology. This can be a great option if there is a need for what you can offer. Of course, monetary donations are always welcome, whether you decide to pledge an amount monthly, give a percentage of monthly sales or profits, or follow another giving model. Any amount that’s comfortable will be appreciated; the important thing is to commit and follow through.
Volunteering. One of your business’ greatest resources is your team, regardless of its size. Leveraging your employees’ talents, skills, and enthusiasm to further the cause of a local nonprofit can be a powerful thing. It’s also an amazing way to get employees engaged. What’s more, volunteering allows your team to support causes that are important to them while connecting to their community and learning more about issues affecting it.
Sponsorships and grants. Sponsorships are a time-honored way of helping nonprofits, and with good reason. They’re as simple as a business financially supporting an event or activity hosted by a nonprofit. In exchange for the support, the company is given a shout-out in some shape or form, often being featured in promotional materials. This type of community outreach is a way to endorse important community events or activities while subtly marketing your brand.
Community grants allow your business to support the organizations already doing good work in the community. Setting aside designated grant funds and inviting organizations to apply is a great way to leverage your resources for social good. If your team has a specific cause or population in mind, you can create targeted grants around an issue. In your grant application, you could ask applicants to explain how they are engaged in this work and what a grant will allow them to do.
Matching gifts. Employee matching programs are when a company matches the cash donations of employees, often up to a certain dollar amount. Matching gifts is the quintessential way to give financial support while raising awareness for a cause and getting the whole team on the giving bus. Whether your matching program allows employees to select any cause at all, or your business is supporting an initiative like United Way, which likely supports a cause that’s important to each team member, you’re simultaneously creating employee engagement and a bigger financial impact.
Scholarships. Starting a scholarship program as part of your corporate giving means you will be helping students further their education by providing money for tuition, books, or other living expenses while making a valuable investment in the future. You’re helping students access education and easing the financial burden on them and their families. Some companies focus on scholarships in industries related to their business; others establish guidelines that align with their mission statement or giving parameters.
Identify your purpose
Unless your initial purpose is to establish yourself as a business with a big heart, it’s wise to establish giving guidelines before jumping in.
Regardless of the size of your business or giving program, look for nonprofits whose mission reflects the mission and culture of your company, and don’t feel like you have to pinpoint one specific cause, either; perhaps select two or three areas of focus. Being proactive and strategic in the selection process will serve you well, especially if you’re considering major gives such as grants and sponsorships. Do your homework, selecting a cause that focuses on effecting positive change.
And in the case of those gifts of great impact (translation: large dollar amounts), it’s OK to request past annual reports to help determine their impact and how they manage their finances. You can even talk to other giving partners who are already supporting the organization to gain an understanding of their experience working with them.
Lastly, ask yourself if you can see your employees connecting with the cause, and get their buy-in. After all, they’re a huge part of your business. Giving your team a program they can be proud of practically guarantees their involvement.
We hope we’ve given you some ideas for authentic and impactful giving. For more inspiration, check out UBT’s 2021 Community Impact Report, and keep in mind that your giving plan will evolve as your business does. The important thing is to get started — or to level up if you’re already giving.
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