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The invaluable role of philanthropy in organisations

Corporate Social Responsibility refers to the moral and ethical obligations of an organisation to invest in philanthropic initiatives and give back to society. It stipulates a prerequisite that organisations do more than simply reap shareholder return; they are expected to contribute to the health and well-being of the community. Furthermore, it’s believed that CSR should be integrated throughout the organisation and practiced in its relationships. Ultimately, CSR is about seizing the opportunity to do good while doing business.

CSR may seem like a significant leap from the origins of commerce, yet today, it’s something that organisations cannot ignore. Research consistently proves that a robust corporate philanthropy program generates meaningful community impact and delivers greater commercial dividends.

Doing good makes good business sense. Employee engagement is a key driver of corporate philanthropy.

High employee engagement is a goal shared by Employers of Choice as an indicator of an irresistible company culture; one that motivates greater productivity, lower turnover, and attracts top talent.

Employee engagement is defined as the emotional commitment an employee has to an organisation and its goals. Engaged employees care more and, therefore, work harder, give better service, and stay put. Engaged employees are reported to be 87% more likely to remain with an organisation.

Research continues to prove that engaged staff help businesses succeed. It’s easy to appreciate that employees who love working for you inspire happier customers who buy more and refer more, and therefore drive sales and profits higher, ultimately resulting in increased share value. Companies where 60-70% of employees are engaged report an average shareholder return of 24.2%, but when engagement decreases to 49-60%, returns plunge to as low as 9.1%.

Employees are engaged when they are inspired. Although it would be nice to think that work alone is enough to inspire staff, it’s increasingly clear that inspiration comes from a culture of giving back to the community in a meaningful and measurable way.

Employee expectations are evolving and expanding.

On a global scale, employee expectations of organisations have changed dramatically. There is a groundswell of interest in charitable activities, and companies must respond to this in the quest to attract and retain top talent.

According to the report, Snapshot 2014: A Rising Tide of Expectations – Corporate Giving, Employee Engagement and Social Impact, employees expect their companies to provide:

  1. An effective, contemporary workplace giving program

  2. The ability to use work time to volunteer

  3. Opportunities to engage in skills-based volunteer activities

  4. Matching gifts for employee contributions to non-profits

Creating shareholder value is just the start.

Employees expect to be supported to give back to causes they care about. This expectation will only intensify as Millennials become a larger percentage of the labour market. Millennials are more ethically and community minded than previous generations. Their personal values dictate their purchasing habits, and also where they’re prepared to work. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey reports that 56% of Millennials have ruled out ever working for particular organisations based on their values.

Numerous businesses are clambouring to build meaningful cultures that resonate with employees, especially Millennials. It’s more than just offering free lunch and a ping pong table. Modern employees are attracted to companies that foster purpose-filled work, regardless of whether that is the company’s core value proposition. CSR programs provide purpose that supplements the main reason for the company to exist and, when executed well, supports the personal community concerns of their staff.

The business value of corporate philanthropy is also linked to brand, reputation and consumer choice.

A CSR programme often serves as a guide to consumers about what your company represents. The perception of being ‘community friendly’ can have a large impact on where New Zealanders and Australians spend their money. A recent Horizon Research Poll reports that 74% of New Zealand adults say their perceptions of a company being community friendly influences their decision to buy.

Where to start? Here are four simple ways to create meaningful and measurable community impact:

  1. Financial donations are a meaningful and measurable way to support the community. With your blessing, employees can donate to the charities of their choice through their pre-tax pay (Workplace Giving) or via credit card (Direct Giving). Employees will feel a profound connection to your business for supporting them to give to causes they care about. Go a step further and match staff donations to amplify your impact, validate your program support, and further engage staff.

  2. Volunteering provides an opportunity for employees to develop new skills, build on their strengths and collaborate with colleagues in non-work settings. Furthermore, employees will showcase your brand and return with valuable learnings.

  3. Fundraising empowers staff to develop their leadership skills and rally support for causes they care about. It could be participating a fun run that promotes health and well-being, organising a team building challenge or donating to an emergency appeal. Supporting your staff to fundraise positively impacts employee engagement as well as your employer brand.

  4. Personal choice is paramount when implementing a charitable giving program. Empower staff to give to charities of their choice and also let staff exercise autonomy to give in a way that’s personally meaningful. Some staff may prefer to set up reoccurring donations, others will invest in an annual fundraiser, while managers may promote skilled volunteering to sharpen an employee’s professional toolkit outside the office.

Giving is personal. Programs succeed in making a difference to their community and company culture when choice is in-built.

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