With businesses fighting to cut costs, corporate giving is coming under growing scrutiny. Done well, corporate giving can bring a multitude of benefits: it can help to alleviate social problems, increase employee skills and motivation, and improve a business’ reputation. So how can businesses make the most of their hard-earned resources and reap the rewards?
It’s not as simple as writing a cheque. It’s not even about how much you give. What’s important is having a well-thought out approach: just as every company has a business plan, an effective giving strategy should outline a business’ goals and how it plans to achieve them.
Firstly, businesses must be clear about what it and its stakeholders specifically want to achieve. The giving strategy for a company that wants to promote employee engagement, for example, might look quite different from one that aims to improve its brand and reputation. Having clear objectives is particularly important when a business wants to achieve multiple goals—it’s vital to set these out at the start and see if and how they can be aligned.
Once you have clear objectives you can begin to work out who to give to and how. This includes thinking about what issues and needs fit with your corporate strategy, and where you can make the biggest difference. What social issues are you interested in? Are these best tackled at a local or national level? What charities are most effective in these areas? And what can you do to help? Giving cash is not the only way—businesses often possess expertise and resources that can have as much, if not more, impact than financial donations. Fujitsu, for example, are helping Shelter to modernise its shop network and improve customer engagement through donating resources (including IT equipment and software) and specialist expertise, as well as encouraging staff to volunteer.
Establishing how to give is an important step, but the journey to effective giving doesn’t stop there. Evidencing and communicating the impact of giving is essential, not only to maximise business benefits, but to justify corporate giving at all (against those all important objectives). And measuring impact can help the charities that a business supports too: NPC’s Making an Impact survey found that while charities are often motivated by funding requirements, improvement to service delivery is the main benefit achieved as a result.
However, despite the importance of impact measurement in maximising benefits for both businesses and the causes they support, it’s often overlooked. Research published last week by Corporate Citizenship found that while corporate foundations engaged in impact measurement highly rate the accuracy of their approach, 42% of corporate foundations do not measure impact at all. This does not provide a full picture of corporate giving as the research relates to the 140 corporate foundations in England and Wales, and does not include direct giving by businesses themselves. But it’s possible that impact measurement is even less advanced once you move beyond grant-making into growing areas of corporate giving, such as employee volunteering and in-kind support, where approaches to measurement are less well-established. The research raises other questions too. For those corporates that rate the accuracy of their measurement highly, what exactly are they measuring? And how robust is the evidence?
The impact of corporate responsibility, including the outcomes of employee volunteering, are high on NPC’s agenda for the next few months. We’re also planning to research impact measurement practices among funders in general, exploring the barriers to measurement and how they can be overcome to maximise mutual benefits.