We all learned the Golden Rule as kids, and hopefully even practiced it now and again. But what does this simple lesson in morality and ethics mean in today’s world, particularly for companies and corporations whose primary goal is to create value for their employees and shareholders?
We think it means that if organizations want to make more money, maybe they should consider giving more of it away. While at first glance that seems counter intuitive, one only need look at the changing demands of consumers, employees and society in general to understand why corporate philanthropy is not just a nice thing to do but a solid business strategy.
Consider the facts.
First, consumers expect it. It’s no longer enough to say, “We employ people” or “We make a great product or have a great service.” That’s just the price of entry. Today, companies need to stand for more. With distrust and frustration of government on the rise, people are looking to the private sector to take a leadership role in identifying and addressing important issues and challenges, whether they be at a global, national or local level.
Second, employees are increasingly attracted to it. Philanthropy and corporate social responsibility are particularly important for the rapidly growing Gen Y generation. Now more than 74 million strong, members of Gen Y want more than a job, they want to make a difference. They want to make money but they also want to believe that profits have a purpose. Deloitte’s annual Volunteer IMPACT survey finds that the majority of Gen Y workers want to work for a company that allows them to use their skills to benefit nonprofit organizations outside the workplace. Above all, Gen Y wants to work for organizations who “get it.” Smart companies are figuring this out now and building their recruiting and retention programs around this idea.
Third, the model of philanthropy is changing. We are in the midst of a tectonic shift from autocratic giving, where CEOs and other wealthy individuals carry the bulk of the giving to their pet causes, to the democratization of philanthropy, whereby people of all means give and either collectively or individually decide where the money goes. Target’s “Pick Your Cause” program is a great example. In 2009, individual donations were again the largest percentage of total charitable giving, exceeding $227 billion. At the same time, the explosion and ease of online giving, as was evidenced in the response to the earthquake in Haiti, puts philanthropy at our fingertips.
Although all these factors apply, there is no one size fits all approach to corporate philanthropy. Companies have to do what feels right for them, their employees, their customers and their communities. What’s important is that they are doing something. That starts with developing a sound corporate philanthropy strategy and then finding partnering organizations to help execute. At Global Prairie, we are fortunate to have a strong relationship with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, which, in addition to be one of the country’s largest Community Foundations, is often cited as one of the most progressive and innovative. Shortly after starting Global Prairie, we made the decision to reinvest 10% of our profits back in the communities where we live and work through our Global Prairie charitable foundation. We’ve also established individual foundations in the name of each employee so they can fuel…and fund…their own passions. And we’ve replaced traditional holiday gift baskets with charitable giving cards for our clients, allowing them to support the causes of their choosing, not ours.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to the Golden Rule. We firmly believe that organizations have a responsibility to give back to the communities from which they derive their livelihood. We do it, we encourage our clients to do it, and, if you’re reading this, we encourage you to do it too.