As a marketing professional, I have been on both sides of the same equation. As a corporate leader for a global company, I made decisions to ensure our local community was supported by making charitable contributions to worthy nonprofits. Later, when I worked for the nonprofit Kelly Cares Foundation, this arrangement flipped. I was the one asking corporate executives for charitable contributions to my nonprofit. Now, as the Director of Marketing at Gibson, seeing both sides of the equation and matching those experiences with our own set of priorities has me seeing the whole arrangement from a new vantage point.
As soon as I joined the Gibson team, I asked myself: Are we fully embracing corporate giving? I knew right away, Gibson is an incredibly generous company. It’s very clear we have a culture of servant leadership from the top down and our donations and time prove this. But what difference is it making? Should we have a plan for giving, just like we have a plan for every other part of our company? Of course, the answer is yes.
Research shows nearly 90% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a company that supports activities to improve the community. With a statistic like that, do employers really have a choice when it comes to giving and their social reputation? I can enthusiastically say no! But this doesn’t mean throwing together a disjointed giving program that exists outside the bounds of your company’s primary goals.
Does your organization have its core values clearly outlined? At Gibson our core values are genuinely our fundamental beliefs, making it a natural starting point to establish a giving strategy. Your core values should align right along with your corporate giving dollars and time. Next time a nonprofit asks your company for a gift, the first thing you can do is see how partnering with that nonprofit fits into your core values.Leadership must buy into the benefits that come with being a good community steward. Establishing your company as a leader in corporate giving comes with its own set of challenges. You can start today by asking yourself: What is the motivation for my corporate giving? Recruitment, retention, relationships, making an impact? These are all great reasons to take part in giving.
In 2019, Gibson embarked on a path to take our corporate social investment very seriously. We partnered with Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors to measure and monitor our social impacts through surveys, auditing, research, and expertise. Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors sat with us to create our baseline and forge a clear path for future goals that are aligned with our priorities and culture.
During the process we found giving back doesn’t stop at sending in checks and sponsoring tables at charity events but extends into how we are treating our team members and valuing their time and efforts in and out of the office. When the numbers rolled in, we were astounded. When you read through our first-ever impact report or watch the impact report video, both produced in conjunction with Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors, you’ll see we found our company was more generous than we ever even knew. In fact, corporate cash contributions coupled with fundraising, volunteer service, and employee gifts added up to an astounding $869K community investment across all locations last year alone. We also found Gibson has invested in 91 nonprofits and our employees volunteer in 138 different nonprofits throughout Michigan and Indiana. This is resounding evidence the communities we live in need us and rely on us to be there for them in more ways than we ever imagined.
Gibson made a strategic decision—we want to be known as a leader in corporate giving. Looking for ways to innovate through giving, we listened to our employees and offered them the opportunity to volunteer at community nonprofits during the workday. This led to larger groups wanting to participate, allowing us to make an even greater impact while encouraging teams to grow together. In the end, is there really a better way to motivate employees or recruit new talent than being able to show the real impact we are making on those in need, our community, and one another?
Equally as exciting, I will be working with our current nonprofit partners to get creative. Instead of us supporting that annual dinner with just tickets to an event, we are asking the nonprofits to schedule tours and volunteer opportunities with our employees. We hope this will boost overall engagement amongst our team members and create a peer-to-peer bond that otherwise may never have existed. We are confident this will promote philanthropy among employees beyond what we give here as a company at Gibson.
We encourage you to join us in this endeavor into strategic corporate philanthropy. Be bold and dive deep! As you begin, keep these six quick tips from our partner Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors in mind.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Corporate Giving
- DO: Think about how you will merge your giving strategy and goals with your corporate strategy and goals. Are there any charities who share a similar vision or mission? For example, if you’re a financial advisor – you may want to look into teaming up with a nonprofit that teaches youth about making smart money decisions. Do you run a construction company? You may consider finding some nonprofits or schools that teach trades to low-income adults.
- DON’T underestimate the power of relationships you will build through partnerships with nonprofits. If you take the partnerships seriously, you will gain valuable contacts through staff and board member interactions. This is an investment that could impact your bottom line.
- DO: Ask your employees what their passion is. Imagine spending all your time rallying your employees to support your favorite animal shelter only to find out not a single person you work with is passionate about animal rights. If you find out their passions don’t align with your corporate strategy for giving, consider offering them a matching gift grant to encourage giving to a nonprofit of their choice. On average, major corporations match employee gifts up to about $1,000. Matching any amount, even $100, will go a long way to show your team it’s crucial for the team to be engaged in philanthropy.
- DON’T forget to provide time for volunteering opportunities to your employees. The estimated national value of an employee hour is $25.43. Even if you’re a small business and can’t afford a big corporate giving program, you can probably afford to offer group volunteering and optional volunteer time off hours for your employees to give back their time. If you organize a time for employees to take the day off to volunteer at a food pantry, that could amount to giving a $1,000 cash donation to that charity.
- DO: Track every penny you spend on charitable giving. These donations are 100% tax-deductible. Think strategically with every gift -- ask yourself how it will add value to your company. You should be tracking corporate philanthropy just the same as you would monitor any other performance metric in your company.
- DO: Take the time to get to know the nonprofits you support. You could even organize nonprofit tours and interviews for your employees to help choose the best spot to invest your corporate cash and time. This process should be taken as seriously as any other endeavor you undertake in your business.
Watch our quick Corporate Social Investment Impact Report video to see Gibson's impact in action.
What’s The Risk?
What’s the risk of corporate leadership not embracing social responsibility? As a leader, you have an obligation to your employees to promote moral and ethical behavior. That starts with helping to foster a sustainable community.
Working through this project, I have realized that corporate giving doesn’t need to be a burden. Get creative, challenge your current nonprofit partners, and get your employees involved. Giving should be mutually beneficial, bring meaning and ethical responsibility to your organization while providing nonprofits with much-needed support. It may sound cliché but being a good role model for your employees and community is ultimately a behavior that other companies will want to emulate.
“The three most important ways to lead people are: by example…by example…by example.” -Albert Schweitzer