Not all corporate giving is good. Some is just plain SAD. Let’s unpack that.
Happiness is good. Actually, as we describe in our new book, First-Time Leader (request an executive summary), happiness is three goods: good for others, good for me, good at it. Well, guess what. Those three goods are the common attributes of value creating corporate giving as well. I attended the Commit Conference on Corporate Responsibility this morning and these were my main take-aways:
The basis of value-creating corporate giving is giving something that makes a meaningful impact on others.
- At the same time, corporate giving must be good for the corporation as well.
- And the most valuable corporate giving goes well beyond check writing to giving out of corporate strengths.
Opposed to this is SAD giving: Self-serving as a top priority, Articulated poorly, Distracting everyone from what they should be doing. Don’t do that. Instead, learn from those doing it right.
Good for others
Mosaic’s Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas described the good their Villages program is doing for others. Mosaic is the world’s largest combined producer of potash and phosphates, two vital plant nutrients. As such, they work at the intersection of food safety and water scarcity. They understand the value their products bring to large farms and developed the Mosaic Villages program to bring some of the same benefits to small farmers. Pro Bono. (Remember “Pro Bono” means “for good”.)
This has led to a 3-5x increase in crop yields, giving these farmers the free cash-flow they need to afford such luxuries as education and shoes for their children, investing in cash crops and breaking the cycle of poverty.
Good for me
IBM’s Doris Gonzales described the good their Smarter Cities program is doing for the cities involved and the good the program does for IBM. They credit their corporate giving with
- Increased employee engagement
- Reduced employee turnover
- Strengthened employee skills
- Strengthened customer relationships
- New market opportunities
Indeed, SharedXpertise’s Elliot Clark opened the business part of the conference by sharing some data on the cost of a bad reputation. In particular, research they and the Allegis Group conducted indicates that 69% of people are unlikely or very unlikely to accept a job with a company with a bad reputation and 33% would want a 50% increase in pay to accept such a job, if they did. Prospective employees are five times more likely to reject offer from company with a bad reputation (31%) than with a good reputation (6%).
Good at it
“Checkbook Philanthropy” seems to be going away. The people I talked to, like Regeneron’s Erin Loosen, represented corporations far less interested in writing unrestricted checks than in leveraging their talent, technology, and infrastructure to help those in need. This makes total sense. There’s no synergy in cash. Organizations leveraging their own strengths build those strengths while doing good for others.
Now you have no excuse to be SAD. Start with things that are good for others instead of merely self-serving. Make sure you’re articulating what you’re doing and why it’s good for others AND good for your organization. Keep distractions to a minimum by leveraging and building your existing strengths. Of course you should practice corporate responsibility. Just do it good, good, good.