Last month Boston Consulting Group’s Perspectives publication had a great little article titled Rethinking Corporate Philanthropy. Its main thrust focused on the fact that so many companies lack a strategic underpinning when it comes to their philanthropic giving.
From a brand perspective we have always encouraged our clients to ask themselves how their corporate giving is enhancing their brand, as well as the causes they are supporting. They should be mutually reinforcing, not discreetly different objectives. To this end brands should ideally seek out social causes that have some relationship to the purpose of the brand.
One of our more innovative and socially aware clients is a company called Concept Amenities, who is a supplier to hotel chains around the world of bathroom amenities such as soaps, shampoos, body lotion. Great business and great people. As part of their desire to make a truly positive contribution to the world we share, they have recently launched a program called ‘Soap Aid’. It is a tremendous example of brand aligned philanthropic endeavours.
Concept Amenities through their Soap Aid program collects used soaps from their hotel clients and re-constitutes them into new soaps that can be shipped to developing economies where a lack of hygiene contributes to significant health problems. It is a brilliant program on all levels. A great cause and totally on brand. Even better it forges a collaborative energy with the clients that participate in the program. However, it also requires a lot of effort from Concept Amenities, they are totally engaged. For many companies their philanthropic efforts are remote and disengaged from their organisations, as such there impact on the brand can be rather diluted. Soap Aid is a more challenging concept, but the rewards can be significant.
Below is a summary of the key points raised in the BCG Perspective’s article. The points raised are a great reminder of the basics of sound giving.
Set a Clear Mission and Goals
What is the company trying to achieve with its giving program? Are there particular issues that connect to the core business or resonate with employees, business leaders, and stakeholders? An energy company might focus on the environment, for example, or a toy company might choose to work with a children’s health nonprofit.
Narrow Your Focus and Manage for Impact
Many companies dilute their efforts by managing a highly fragmented portfolio with many small grants devoted to a wide range of causes. To have a greater impact, consider giving more money to a small number of causes that align with your company’s business, and build expertise over time in those key areas.
Choose the Right Partners
Identifying the best nonprofits to partner with is a matchmaking process that goes beyond just ensuring a fit with the chosen focus area. Matching the skills that your company has to offer with the needs of the nonprofit will lead to stronger, more collaborative partnerships. Get to know potential partners and make sure that expectations are aligned.
Get the Business Involved
Do not keep simply within the domain of the corporate affairs department. Engage in annual “big ideas” forums with business leaders and key NGO partners; involving business leaders in the grant evaluation process; or having business leaders act as champions for specific grants or giving areas.
Create a Communications Strategy
The growing importance of corporate social responsibility has made businesses realize the need for an effective communications strategy. Such a strategy helps raise awareness of the social impact of the company’s giving program, and sharing the success of corporate-giving efforts helps establish the company’s commitment locally or globally.
Yes, it is clearly not rocket science. So, why wouldn’t you adopt a brand aligned philanthropic mindset – false modesty is no out. Having said, whatever you do, keep giving.