Making Philanthropy a Priority
By Karen Govel McDermott, Jeff Winton Associates Consultant
For as long as I can remember, giving back and helping others in need have always been central to my personal philosophy, shaping the way I live. Going beyond an individual’s personal convictions, philanthropy plays an important role in helping communities face challenges that governments alone can’t fix, such as poverty, lack of access to healthcare and environmental threats. When people come together to donate time and money to help others, there’s great power to make the world a better place – not just today, but for generations to come.
That’s why corporate philanthropy can have such a huge positive impact. Matching gifts, corporate grants and volunteer initiatives are a few examples of corporate philanthropy. Not only does a charitable giving program make a difference for the recipients of their programs, but there are also potential benefits for the companies themselves, including:
Improvements in employee engagement and morale
Increased customer and brand loyalty
More visibility for the company
As you look for ways to make philanthropy a priority, here’s some food for thought:
Consider your company’s purpose. If your company is large enough to have a foundation responsible for charitable giving, great! In smaller businesses, these decisions often rest with the public relations or marketing department. There are countless reputable causes deserving of funding. Which ones make the most sense for your company? For example, a pharmaceutical corporation that develops cardiovascular drugs might want to partner with the American Heart Association. A company that manufactures toys might want to support Toys for Tots – the Marine Corps Reserve program that provides toys, books and games to millions of children each year. Brand alignment can reinforce your mission and be a win-win for both your company and the non-profit organization.
Coach your leaders. Company executives can be instrumental in spreading the word and engaging employees, customers, stockholders and the general public. Provide the leaders with bullet points that describe how the partnerships work in tandem to advance the corporation’s organizational goals. Reinforce the charitable work with speaking points they can use at employee town halls, on shareholder calls and in press interviews.
Rally your team. Communications people are master storytellers. We excel at promoting the virtues of our employers and clients. Think about ways to use that “storytelling gene” to inspire your team to give back to the community. You could pick an organization near your place of work and have a team-building day where you engage in a project, such as serving meals at a soup kitchen or painting murals at a daycare center. Ask the nonprofit for permission to take photos that you can share externally in an annual report or with a press release. Be sure to also leverage the intranet or company newsletter to share the news with other employees. If your team is scattered across the country, you might want to have a Zoom call where colleagues who do local volunteer work can talk about their uplifting experiences.
Make your own positive impact. Outside of work, step back and think about how you can make a difference on a personal level. Dig deep into your heart to find the cause that speaks to your sense of purpose. For example, I’ve volunteered at a therapeutic riding center and delivered meals to homebound elderly people through the local Meals on Wheels program. Will you become a Big Brother or Big Sister? Will you translate your love for animals into volunteering at a shelter? The possibilities are endless.
As the saying goes, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” It could be the first day when you embark on a journey that will better the world while giving your life immeasurable meaning.
Karen Govel McDermott is a marketing communications professional who brings more than 30 years of experience to Jeff Winton Associates. Throughout her career, Karen has worked as a writer and editor for a variety of organizations, including healthcare advertising agencies, nonprofits and animal health companies. In addition to Jeff Winton Associates, Karen develops communications for Rural Minds, the nonprofit organization founded by Jeff Winton that provides mental health resources and information to people in rural America.