Last month in San Diego, business leaders from the U.S. and Canada gathered to discuss the future of corporate philanthropy. They all had one thing in common: their firms use Benevity's industry-leading SaaS solution to manage their 'Goodness,' which Benevity refers to as all of the behaviors an employee can engage in that drive greater affinity with their companies while making a difference in their lives, communities and the world at large.
Once considered a mere box to check, corporate philanthropy -- or 'Goodness' -- is fast evolving into an essential building-block for a company's culture and success in the 21st century. Everyone from employees to clients to consumers want to know what businesses are doing to improve the communities in which they operate. This is especially so with millennials and Generation Z.
With all of these Goodness experts under one roof, plenty of best practices were bandied about, and attendees came away with a better idea of how to leverage corporate philanthropy to create an engaged and diverse workforce, in turn generating an authentic brand and enhanced reputation.
"What we found is that there's been a growing divide between brand and reputation: What companies say about themselves is often very different from people's experience with them," Stake explained. "So, how do you bridge that gap?"
FleishmanHillard analyzed nine drivers of good corporate reputation and found that only half of them relate directly to a company's products or services. The rest touch on things like how the company treats its employees, the environment and the communities in which it operates, she continued.
With that in mind, adopting corporate Goodness programs -- and communicating them effectively to all stakeholders -- moves beyond a nice-to-have and into a vital component of maintaining a good reputation among customers, employees and even job recruits. "Taking Goodness programs outside of a silo and looking at them as a driver of corporate reputation is really important."
Once you learn more about what makes your firm's top leadership tick, use this information to plan a small event like a volunteer day or a social media campaign. Utilize not only money, but all of the tools in your toolbox, from your employees to your client relationships -- what Zuckerwise calls "creative capital." As buzz spreads around the office and employees begin to take notice of these new Goodness programs, the folks in the C-suite will take notice, too.
"If you have a couple of little wins and you start from the bottom up, that kind of creative capital will get to the C-suite, and it will make the C-suite players feel good about what they're doing -- it will engage them."
To pull off this feat, Intuit uses its giving program data and annual employee survey to learn more about what causes matter most to its team, Heffner said. Ask questions like: What are employees passionate about? Do they feel included in corporate Goodness programs, and what more would they like to see?
Ideally, the demographics of your company should match those of your customers, Zuckerwise added, using Verizon as an example: Around 60 percent of Verizon's employees are female or minority, which is about the same percentage of women and minority consumers who buy the company's goods and services. The best workforces, Heffner explained, are the most diverse workforces -- and understanding what makes your employees tick is key to creating a corporate culture that attracts candidates from all walks of life.
So, for example, if you're working on a matching gift program at a food company, your firm may want to emphasize its work with hunger relief because it naturally meshes with company values (what many call a ‘vertical’ approach). But some employees may be more passionate about education, the environment, autism or another equally worthy cause. So, while you want to be sure to include plenty of hunger-relief charities in your matching-gift solution, it's also important to give employees the option to donate to other nonprofits that more closely align with their values. This creates ‘horizontal’ engagement.
Stake pointed out that enabling choice often piques employees’ interest and gets them onto the tool. Then, you can use the tool’s communication elements to share your company's focus on and passion for hunger relief efforts, engage employees and invite them to get involved in the business’ priority initiatives.
"We talk a lot about corporate social responsibility or CSR, and one of the things that we're adopting at our firm is PSR, personal social responsibility, and really fostering that through our matching gift program," Zuckerwise said of her company, Guggenheim Partners.
Through the program, Guggenheim gives each employee a $100 gift card to award to the nonprofit of his or her choice. "We have 2,800 employees," Zuckerwise explained, "but we touch 1,000 nonprofits through that program. And employees get to choose and to give to whomever they like, so that PSR piece really engages people."
"Engagement is a must-have for many employees," Campbell continued -- saying community impact opportunities are especially crucial for companies looking to woo millennial employees. A 2014 PwC study found that more than half of recent college graduates are seeking a company that has CSR values that align with their own, and 56 percent would consider leaving a company that didn’t have the values they expected. Subsequent studies back up this notion that millennial employees are seeking purpose, not just a paycheck.
One thing is clear: We are in a new era of corporate Goodness that is becoming a core driver to business success.
Learn more about how Benevity engages people in Goodness.
Image credit Edison Miclat for Benevity
Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as managing editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of brands and organizations on sustainability storytelling.
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