When I was growing up, helping others was part of what was expected as a decent human being. You were discreet and perhaps even private about such activities.
It was almost unseemly to be helping out and then talking about it. Over the years things have changed and while for some of us discretion is still a preferred way of operation, these days more often than not the act of giving back is an integral part of your personal and company brand DNA. Philanthropy and giving back to the community is a contemporary employer brand attraction and business imperative. It can allow your company to be a facilitator for good, improve brand social equity, grow sales, connect people, attract and retain great talent, and deliver social impact in the communities you live and operate in.
There are great examples of what to do and what not to do out there. From the highlights of Facebook moving into their new HQ and donating to local schools (but then being accused of buying the local community off) to Atlassians employer brand booming by giving staff time off to donate to charity work during business hours.
If you want it to work well for you there are a few steps that will help
- Match up your brand strategy with the charity or purpose – do your core values align?
- If you want to help staff feel great – check in, is this a charity that they will care about? Otherwise you could be faced with more frowns than smiles.
- Spec the time, the scope and the budget of the investment – when heart strings are being pulled its easy for things to get out of hand.
- Do it because you want to, not because you feel you have to.
- Remember, Australia is politically correct obsessed – check in with what is considered ‘’acceptable’’.
Over the years, we’ve been first to pay for local community stalls in local fairs, we’ve donated time to Clean Up Australia, provided PR skills for The White Knight Foundation (preventing alcohol fuelled violence amongst the young), conducted many Cancer Council Morning Teas and helped run a big event for Good Beginnings for a better start for young children 0-12 amongst others. We’ve donated time, money and skills. I’ve given time off to staff for philanthropy and I have spoken at Not-For-Profit events.
For selecting an outreach program, a checklist helps
- Does it make me feel good – yes!
- Does it interest customers and prospects – certainly!
- Does it provide help to others – absolutely!
- Does it provide colourful images for social media and web – sure!
- Does it make my team feel good – beware, not always.
Not everyone is interested in everything so choose your charity or area of help carefully. The good news is the options and topics are as many as there are methods and ways of giving.
I have tended to ask my team each year to choose one single area of focus each year from reducing violence, community, dogs, children and we have followed that – sometimes extending for a two-year period or more.
Giving back and social action can better engage stakeholders, unite your company, align company values to communities in need and can drive measurable results and business performance.
If you want to get the real measurement right (and I am a big believer in you can’t manage what you can’t measure) you can google and search for platforms such as “Benojo”. Benojo and platforms like it strategically and meaningfully create, deliver and measure what you do with your employees and customers in your social impact outcomes.
In my experience, charitable giving has been joyful, rewarding, and also contentious, more time consuming or expensive than I first thought, and potentially political. Not everyone is interested in one kind of charity so one of the issues is trying to find one size that fits all. Giving free reign to team members to follow their passion is ideal at first sight but difficult to manage if those interests sway into the political or politically correct arena. I have seen clients receive bad publicity from the charity work they have chosen to follow so this is worth considering.
On the flip side, can a brand (or individual) afford NOT to be engaged in giving back in some way? The relationships, excitement, fun and sheer feel good factor of giving back is surely one of the fabrics of society and personal worth. I know that my company will continue to give back to the community and be proud of our socially responsible brand.
About the author:
Sharon Williams is a pioneer in the Australian marketing and PR industry. She is a CEO, Fellow of the PRIA, international speaker, personal brand expert, entrepreneur, mentor, marketer, media commentator and frequent mainstream editorial contributor. Under Sharon’s leadership and entrepreneurial flair, Taurus is now recognised as one of Australia’s highest profile agencies, offering unparalleled levels of service to global corporations including Advance, UTS:INSEARCH, Appster, Napoleon Perdis and Clean Up Australia.