I am also a believer in ROI for giving initiatives, and that doing good can and should be a rewarding venture for both companies and their beneficiaries. But to accomplish this, those of us working in non-profits or corporate philanthropy have to do a better job of creating great matches between the two.
What makes a great match? If you look around, you can find many examples of giving initiatives that seem to really work. Like an energy company that supports environmental conservation, or a bank that supports financial literacy education, or a food company that helps feed hungry families.
In these cases and so many others, the match seems obvious and a good impact on society is sure to result. But effective programs don’t just meet a need, they play to a company’s strengths and allow them to make a meaningful contribution doing what they do best. Aah, now that’s a concept, and one that increases a program’s chances of weathering the ups and downs of the economy or other changing corporate winds, as Ed has pointed out. I’ve never seen a shortage of good causes to support; the reality is companies have to evaluate numerous opportunities to find those things that make the most sense for them — and their stakeholders — to invest in.
Here are a few thoughts, from my consultant’s perspective, on what makes a strong program and a great match. The best giving initiatives:
• Reflect a company’s mission, vision and values;
• Align with one or more business objectives;
• Match up with its operational locations and presence;
• Resound with stakeholders and the issues they care about;
• Create opportunities for community engagement and dialogue about how to effect positive change by working together;
• Excite employees and offer meaningful opportunities to be involved;
• Communicate credible messages about the company;
• Tell compelling stories about how lives, communities and society are being impacted;
• Establish collaborations with respected partners; and
• Enhance the reputation of everyone involved.
To do anything less is, well, to settle for less. Time we did more for the benefit of all.
Posted by Elise Mitchell
Elise Mitchell, APR, Fellow PRSA, is president and CEO of Mitchell Communications Group. She and her group work closely with Tyson Foods in developing and implementing Tyson’s hunger relief strategy and communications.