In many industries, it’s actually fairly rare for well-capitalized corporate entities to avoid charitable giving entirely.
While more radical approaches to philanthropy and corporate citizenship remain the exception rather than the rule, it’s increasingly common for companies to commit to giving a fixed percentage of gross or net income (the latter, obviously, being more sustainable for firms with thin margins) to favored causes.
Your company does not need to make such a commitment to benefit from regular charitable giving. Even a modest effort to support the causes that your principals and customers care about produces substantial benefits, tangible and not.
Whether you choose to support the arts or deem a particular research campaign worthy of your largesse, consider these five arguments for increasing your firm’s charitable giving.
- You’ll Earn the Respect of the Communities Your Efforts Benefit
There’s something to be said for corporate citizenship. Though it’s beyond dispute that your firm has the absolute right to do what it pleases with its income, it’s equally inarguable that generosity does not go unremarked — particularly when it measurably improves the lives of your customers and neighbors.
- You’ll Surface Creativity and Innovation
Who knows where your charitable giving efforts will lead? Even modest support for the arts, or scientific research, or unique cultural institutions could redound in unexpectedly positive ways. For instance, Singapore-based Asiaciti Trust, a noted arts patron, supports some of Latin America’s most promising young artists, as well as the region’s established masters.
- You’ll Improve Quality of Life in Your Backyard (and Beyond)
In some cases, well beyond. Nike’s Community Impact initiative touches lives around the world; even if your firm lacks Nike’s resources and reach, there’s nothing stopping it from supporting charitable programming or donating to worthy causes far from home.
- You’ll Lead by Example
In making it clear that giving back is a top priority for your firm, you’ll set an important example for your staff. Reinforce that example with a time-off policy that allows for employees to take the initiative on charitable work, as well as organized company outings into the community.
- You’ll Attract and Retain Talent
It’s not just about setting the example. Active corporate philanthropy is about talent attraction and retention, too. Many prospective employees want to do work that seems destined to make a difference — or, failing that, to work for a firm that seeks to leave a positive mark on the world. There’s a reason famously charitable companies like Patagonia routinely top “best places to work” lists.
Find Your Passion
In all likelihood, diverting a small share of your corporate income to worthy causes will not materially change your approach to business or compromise your stakeholders’ financial position. As with all corporate initiatives, your judgment will govern: if you determine that your company cannot afford to increase its charitable giving, you will delay or table any plans to do so.
If, on the other hand, you determine that your company can in fact afford to visibly support causes with which the interests of its principals align, any efforts to do so may well redound to its benefit. In this case, devote some thought to the causes you find most worthy of your support — in a word, your passion. When you find and follow your philanthropic passion, you will no doubt feel better about the opportunity cost of your support.