Sure, your business gives back to a handful of groups or organizations, maybe even carefully selected ones, and you give a percentage or set dollar amount each year and feel good about that. Great! You’re helping make the world a better place, and that is no small thing. If I asked you what the benefits are of giving back, you’d probably have some answer about tax write-offs and caring for the community and something about good PR, and those are all correct answers. However, there is another far more significant benefit that is too often untapped by most businesses, and I would argue, should be the largest point of emphasis in corporate giving.
And the answer is… [drum roll] …company culture. A company culture that is held together by an underpinning of generosity towards the world can bring numerous benefits to a business that have real significant financial and operational upsides. Unfortunately, far too often those in leadership of the business don’t take advantage of this. Instead, company giving remains a far-off concept for most employees; something that is decided on privately in a back room or office and then left to be discovered by seeing an update on LinkedIn one day, leaving them thinking, “Oh, I didn’t know that we helped do that…”
The irony in it all is that most business owners have at one point felt disconnected and in the dark about their giving to non-profits: where is the money going? What role is our gift playing? What is the impact? Not having an answer to these questions often leaves donors feeling like nothing more than a checkbook to these non-profits, rather than an integral part of moving the mission forward. The same emotions resonate with employees when it comes to their employer giving back. They feel disconnected from the giving. They don’t know where the funds are going. They have no idea of the role they play.
All of this leads to a general sense of apathy within employees about how their company gives back. It’s a decision and a facet of the company that operates above their pay grade, so why should they care about it? It isn’t on their radar in the day-to-day, they have little to no investment in it, so when someone sends out an emailing saying, “hey, look at this cool thing we did!”, it’s probably going to come across more like, “No, look at this cool thing that you did.”
What if this whole process was done differently? What if the employees felt like they were an integral part of changing people’s actual lives in a meaningful way when a company gave back? What if, when asked by friends or even clients, they could list off examples of how the company is engaged in helping others, and could even name names of individuals that have been impacted through the company’s giving? Could your employees do this if I was chatting with them?
These what-ifs are the exact vision we have at mBridge for how corporate giving should be—employees feeling that their work is going for something much larger than a paycheck, or expanding the business, or someone in upper management’s raise. Businesses feeling a sense of purpose and camaraderie around giving to causes that matter and are truly making a difference in the poorest places, as well as their own communities. Workers choosing to apply for positions at companies and stay on staff, because they feel the genuine care a company has for people. It’s more than just a pipe-dream. We’re seeing it happen. High employee retention rates, companies with great culture and camaraderie, businesses thriving and growing, all around this idea that is central, that is in their DNA, of we value giving back in a way that changes individual’s lives. The key to making this all happen? Simple…talk about it.
At mBridge, we meet with our largest business donor every month at their company-wide meeting, and we simply share: here are a few stories of lives changed around the world from this last month, and it is all because of the numbers crunched in the accounting department, the deals closed by the sales team, and the communication made by the marketing department. How do you think your business might change if the culture shifted from simply profits, innovation, and growth into, “our marketplace success will lead to meaningful social impact, fostering a world where prosperity is shared, communities thrive, and positive change becomes the norm.” A culture like that would change how you do business, it would change how your employees show up to work each day, and ultimately, just might change the world.
Director of Operations