Lin Grensing-Pophal: 4 “must haves” to reap marketing value of charitable giving

Lin Grensing-Pophal: 4 “must haves” to reap marketing value of charitable giving

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According to Double the Donation, an organization that works with corporations to help them increase the value of their contributions through corporate matching and gifts, corporations gave $17.8 billion to charities in 2016; 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies — and companies are increasingly eager to let others know about their good deeds: 93 percent of the world’s largest companies publish annual CSR (corporate social responsibility) reports.

Why? Because it matters. Not only to consumers, but also to employees. A high percentage of employees today want to work for an organization that gives back to the community. That’s a combination that companies can leverage to reinforce their brands and positively augment and impact their marketing efforts. Following are 4 “Must Haves” for achieving maximum marketing value from your charitable giving efforts.

Strategic Alignment. Finding answers to questions of where you should focus your support can be challenging, but should start with a consideration of your organization’s mission, vision and values.

Walmart, for instance, the world’s largest retail donor “gives cash and product donations to nonprofits working on labor benefits and food for those in need,” according to a The Motley Fuel article. They also, according to the article, send “aid to communities in the U.S. that are affected by natural disasters.” Pfizer, the most charitable Fortune 500 company in America, according to the Motley Fuel, focuses on “healthcare opportunities for those in underserved communities worldwide through ‘people, products, and funding’.”

These areas of focus are clearly aligned with what these organizations do and who they serve.

Employee Support. Employees generally choose to work for organizations whose values they support. Those values are impacted by the causes or organizations the company chooses to put its time and money behind. Employees play an important role as brand ambassadors for the companies they work for. When they can put their time, effort and support behind organizations’ CSR efforts, everyone benefits.

Of course, in any organization, there are likely to be a wide range of charitable causes that employees are passionate about. As we’ve already seen, most companies do not have the resources to support every one. And, in fact, they are likely to have more impact when they can focus on one or a few. But which ones? It can be helpful to get some input from employees here.

Perhaps based on an initial list of possible causes company leadership has identified as being aligned with their mission, vision, values and strategic plan, employees can be asked for input around they level of support for each of these organizations. That input can be useful for leaders as they consider ways to best engage employees in these initiatives. Some companies choose to focus on a specific initiative, or group of initiatives, each year based on employee input. For instance, one year it might be organizations focused on childhood education, another year it might be organizations focused on improving the environment.

Finding the right balance between organizational and employee alignment can help.

Flexibility. Not all employees are financially able to lend their support, but may still want to participate in organizational efforts. Don’t overlook opportunities for volunteerism or in-kind donations. In the world of charitable giving, it’s often said that there are opportunities to contribute, “time, talent and treasure.” Providing opportunities for employees to determine where they are personally able to make an impact is important

Flexibility also comes into play in terms of shifting focus when new needs emerge. Most recently, for instance, the severe damage that has impacted Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, mean that many organizations have shifted some of their efforts away from traditional areas of support to address these news needs. That type of flexibility is important.

Communication and Recognition. Communicating about your charitable giving activities—and the efforts of employees—is important, both internally and externally. Employees, customers and the community are interested in the causes you support, how you support them, and why you do. Sharing information can be done through company publications and websites, as well as through social media channels. Facebook, Instagram and even Pinterest, for instance, are great visually oriented sites where photos of employees engaged in charitable activities events can be readily posted and shared.

In addition, don’t overlook the importance of recognizing employees whose efforts have been especially impactful, those who have gone above and beyond to make a difference—through donations, fundraising and volunteered time and initiatives.

As mentioned early, many companies are making an effort to summarize and report on their charitable activities annually, recognizing that these efforts are highly regarded and well received.

Supporting local organizations that serve individuals in need and causes that impact the environment is the right thing to do. Finding the right balance between local need, company mission and employee interests can help channel your efforts more effectively. That alignment in support of your brand also supports your marketing efforts. It’s a “win” for all involved.

Linda Pophal of Chippewa Falls is a marketing communication consultant, business journalist and the owner of Strategic Communications in Chippewa Falls. She is the author of “The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement.” Contact her at or 715-723-2395.


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