Three things to consider when making community investments.
There are plenty of reasons why companies give money to charities and non-profit organizations, both altruistic and business-related. A 2011 study by Imagine Canada found that 50% of businesses said it was very important to build strong communities because ultimately that’ s good for business. But 48% said giving fit their company’ s values and traditions and 45% felt it was just a good thing to do, regardless of any financial benefits.
One thing is for sure: It’ s big money. Ma nu life Financial Inc ., for example, contributed $32.8 million to “thousands of non-profit organizations” worldwide in 2014. Most efforts, of course, are much smaller. The Imagine study found that 97% of large businesses donated money, compared to 76% overall, and gave an average of $190,000 versus $2,000.
But even $2,000 is nothing to sneeze at, which is why it’ s important that companies of all sizes carefully consider their community investment efforts, whether they are spending money, donating products in kind, or setting up a volunteer program for their employees .“I’m a big believer in it’ s not about how much you invest, it’ s about how effectively you invest ,” says Stephanie Robertson, CEO and founder of S impact Strategy Group, a Toronto-based agency that manages, measures and values a corporation’ s social impact efforts .“The best strategy in the world needs to have an implementation plan and it needs to have a measurement plan .”
Here, Robertson offers three questions to ask yourself to help ensure a successful community investment before signing up. WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO ENGAGE? It’ s obviously nice to give back to the communities your company does business in, but how you give depends on whether you’ re trying to engage employees, customers or other stakeholders and whether a community investment is the right vehicle to achieve that goal. If the decision is made to volunteer your employees, it’ s important to make sure the chosen theme is meaningful to them and that senior leadership is also involved.
“There needs to bean executive champion who’ s there saying, This is important tome, this is important to the company and I’ d love it if you would support me in this ,” Robertson says. One cave at, however, is that employees should not feel pressured to participate. Encouragement is fine, but don’ t cross the line into bullying. There’ s also a reputation al risk if senior managers don’ t show up after cajoling their employees to do so. Remember that their time is just as valuable as yours. WHAT CRITERIA ARE YOU USING? The criteria used to select an investment are often overlooked, Robertson says. The strategy clearly needs to resonate at the most senior level, but it should also align with the company’ s brand and the key messages that both it and the recipient want to provide.
Likewise, the criteria used to determine success need to be clear and communicated to the organization you choose to partner with .“In my experience, community organizations actually respond very, very well to a conversation about what the objectives are ,” she says. But remember, the more comprehensive the evaluation you’ re asking for, the more you need to be comfortable funding what is an administrative function. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO IMPLEMENT IT? Whatever strategy is chosen needs to be consistent and consistently implemented so that you don’ t have employees skirting rules they don’ t understand or might not agree with .“Companies tend to spend a lot of time on concept, but over look the implementation piece ,” Robertson says .“It shouldn’ t take six months to respond to a request because the decision-making process is so arduous .”
It’ s also important to do health and safety checks if employees are going to an event because there are liability issues. It may sound like over kill, but better safe than sorry.