In 1970, economist Milton Friedman famously used his New York Times article’s headline to quip that a business’s only social responsibility was to increase its profits.¹
While that may have been true in the 70s, it’s no longer true today. Society is shifting toward a more socially and environmentally responsible marketplace where both individuals and businesses are expected to make regular, positive contributions.
It’s a trend we’ve seen for some time now, with many companies adopting corporate responsibility (CR) or, more specifically, corporate social responsibility (CSR), initiatives early. Unfortunately, most of these efforts are seen as cost centers for the business. They’re necessary, but don’t drive business results.
As the shift in society continues, however, we’re seeing growing returns and an opportunity to transition CR into an investment. Today, employees and consumers are demanding corporate responsibility with both their wallets and their choice of employers:
- 87 percent of US consumers prefer to purchase from brands that support causes they care about.²
- 76 percent of consumers refuse to buy products from a company that supports a cause they’re against.²
- 51 percent of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have a strong commitment to CSR.
Corporate Philanthropy Drives Business Results
CSR is no longer something corporations must do to check a box. It’s now producing results by driving sales, increasing employee engagement, and improving brand perception.
Businesses are using a number of tactics to achieve these results. Corporate Citizenship reports that 73 percent of foundations in 20 countries link their giving strategies to parent companies’ business goals.³ Other companies are using more diverse types of corporate giving – such as employee matching gift programs, volunteer opportunities, and non-cash donation drives – to increase philanthropy and improve their ROI.
Is Your CR Program Actually Achieving Results?
Despite promising results, blending multiple CR techniques into a single program that fits business strategy is a challenge. Multiple platforms, complicated processes, and high funding and administration needs drastically lower employee participation and diminish your ROI.
Employee matching gift programs are a good example. The median participation rate is just nine percent, and $10 billion worth of matching funds went unused just in 2016⁴. A key cause of such low results is the complexity of programs.
Similarly low results have led many companies to explore new avenues for improving their programs and increasing ROI. Custom software is one answer. Below, we’ll look at four common CR problems that indicate your company may need a custom solution to improve its program and accelerate results.
4 Signs a Custom Philanthropy Platform Could Improve Your Business Results
1. You’re Struggling to Coordinate and Integrate CR Initiatives
Your corporate giving needs to fit in with your other social and environmental activities, and vice versa. Matching gift programs should work with volunteer opportunities, private foundations, and environmental efforts to engage employees and grow your brand. A custom platform is an easy way to create the cohesion you need by connecting your giving campaigns to big-picture CSR activities and goals.
In larger businesses, a custom platform can also help by coordinating and managing philanthropic initiatives and campaigns at scale. This is especially valuable if you accept (and match) employee contributions, which can be difficult to track and organize.
Vendors will build out your platform specifically to incorporate your program needs, reporting initiatives, and business strategy so everything connects seamlessly.
2. You’re Short on Time and Resources
Corporate philanthropy is historically time and resource-intensive, especially when private foundations are involved. While a custom platform can’t remove the administrative or cost burden of a foundation, it helps automate other operations, freeing up your HR team to focus on strategic initiatives and improvement.
For example, Givinga’s custom workplace giving software has every 501c3 charity in the US in its database, which means employees don’t have to spend time researching and vetting potential donors.
Another benefit is that custom platform development teams can take over tasks that would otherwise be difficult or time-consuming. Dedicated client support teams can train employees on the software, for instance, freeing up management to focus on strategic goals and decreasing your implementation time.
Time savers like these make it easier for businesses to optimize their CSR strategy and engage in strategic philanthropy that gets business results without overwhelming employees or wasting resources.
3. You Haven’t Been Able to Measure or Project Results
Strategic corporate philanthropy is about measurable, tangible results and ROI that move your business forward. That’s a key aspect of transitioning your CR program into an investment instead of a cost center. But tracking results manually is difficult, and most out-of-the-box software solutions track only siloed metrics that are difficult to link back to your business strategy.
With a custom platform, you can tailor the analytics to work for your organization and the causes you contribute to. This helps measure campaign ROI and gives management a clear idea of how well giving efforts are contributing to company goals. Many analytics can also be automated. You can even create codes and widgets that show the Total Philanthropic Impact (TPI) of a campaign.
Determine what corporate philanthropy benefits are most important to your company, then use a custom platform to track, report, and project on their results.
4. Your Corporate Responsibility Needs Shift Over Time
A philanthropic strategy can – and should – change with corporate goals as time passes. For example, Walmart has shifted from “feel-good” local microgrants to a more strategic approach to corporate philanthropy since Kathleen McLaughlin (ex-McKinsey) joined their foundation in 2014.
Managing changes like these with an out-of-the-box platform can be difficult due to technical constraints. For example, a growing interest in crowdfunding might spur you to investigate letting employees raise money for donations through friends and family as a way to increase employee engagement – but find that your current software doesn’t have this feature.
A custom platform is more adaptable to your needs. It can scale and evolve with your CSR and strategic philanthropy goals. Choose a custom solution from a vendor who makes it clear that your long-term satisfaction is their top priority. These vendors are more likely to be willing to adjust your platform as your needs change.
A Custom Corporate Philanthropy Platform Drives Results and Cut Costs Long-Term
Custom platforms can become end-to-end solutions or wrap around your current tools, initiatives, and needs, with the ability to adapt to changes and drive results in the long run.
In addition to all these benefits, a custom platform can also drive down costs. Software made specifically for your organization reduces the man-hours and resources needed to power strategic philanthropic campaigns, increasing ROI.
To determine if a custom platform is right for your company, review your current initiatives and pain points. Are employees participating in your program? Can your HR team use corporate philanthropy as an employee benefit to attract new talent? Is your brand’s reputation as a valued corporate citizen improving?
In most cases, if you’re not seeing results with your current initiatives, a custom platform could help you improve and see a positive ROI.