5 Ways Your Business Can Really Give Back

Corporate philanthropy is what you make of it.

If you genuinely believe that the organizations you care about are best served by your cutting a check every Q4 and nothing more, then you know what you need to do.

Chances are high, though, that your company can afford to do more for the nonprofits working in your backyard. Importantly, “doing more” doesn’t necessarily mean “paying more.” Performing tangible acts of philanthropy that actively improve the lives of your community’s most vulnerable members need not require a dramatic reassessment of your business priorities or a permanent financial compromise.

How can that be so? Let’s take a look at five ways your business can give back to its neighbors without (only) cutting a check or adopting a 501(c) charter.

Host a High-Dollar Fundraiser on Site (Or Pick Up the Tab at a Suitable Offsite Location)

 When donating funds isn’t enough, donate space and manpower. Hosting fundraisers at your corporate office puts an under-utilized asset — your building, after hours — to good use. If your home office isn’t adequate for the event planned, pick up the tab for an offsite gala.

Commission Local Artists to Work at Your Headquarters

 Forget patronage walls. Support individual artists and artisans directly by commissioning original works for your corporate properties. This corporate arts initiative by steel executive Todd Leebow is a classic example: Leebow tapped a noted Cleveland-area artists to design eye-catching steel sculptures for his company’s new headquarters, adding jobs in the region’s burgeoning creative industry and creating one of Ohio’s most innovative workplaces in the process.

Work on a Habitat for Humanity Build

 Roll up your sleeves, grab a hammer, and help build a memory to last a lifetime. Habitat for Humanity volunteers needn’t have special training; even your most timid employees will make themselves useful at the build site.

 Go All In on a Week (or Month) of Giving

 Create critical mass by concentrating multiple philanthropic initiatives into a single week or month of sustained activity. This is a proven way to build momentum around your company’s charity work and get your employees in the habit of giving back — a habit they’re sure to carry forward.

Empower Your Employees to Work on Causes They Care About

 Don’t simply tell your employees how and where they can give back. Let them choose organizations they care about, either individually or as part of an internal philanthropy committee. Then, encourage them to follow through by offering paid time off for approved volunteer work.

 Your Community Needs You

 The organizations striving every day to make your community a better place need you, not only your checkbook. They won’t refuse the latter, of course, but they’re hoping for more meaningful engagement.

As we’ve seen, it may not be as difficult as you’ve imagined to provide that engagement.

If you haven’t already done so, spend some time this quarter brainstorming with senior leadership and rank-and-file employees alike. Ask what you can do, as a team, to make your community a better place. Develop an action plan to turn the best ideas into reality in the coming months and years. And then devote the resources needed to execute that plan, just as you’d do for any other strategic priority.

Your community is counting on you. Don’t let it down.


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