In today's corporate landscape, the modern employee is more socially conscious than they were a generation ago. They're also more generous and inclined to donate to causes that resonate with them.
Here are some numbers. According to the Giving USA Foundation, the largest source of charitable giving last year (72%) came from individual donors, not corporations or charitable trusts. This amounted to a whopping $241 Billion. Last year 95.4% of American households gave to charity with an average annual contribution of $2,974.00, or 2% of our country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In other words, charity accounted for 2% of our nation's economic activity.
If employees are this engaged and committed to important causes, it makes sense for their employers to be as well.
Companies can impact their communities in a variety of ways. They can encourage their employees to volunteer, either by providing them with time off to do so or compensating them while they do. They can hold food drives for food banks or clothing drives for homeless shelters. These are easy ways a company can show it shares their employees' vision of making an impact on their local community. In addition to demonstrating shared values, here are three reasons why corporate social responsibility is good for business.
1. It's Good for Branding. When a company is committed to making a positive difference in its community, the effort and impact is good for business. The more involved in the community the corporation is, the more organic branding occurs, whether through media coverage or from word of mouth. This means your company, and not your competitor's, will be front-of-mind when customers have need of your industry.
2. It Makes a Difference. By organizing a clothing drive for homeless kids, or having a program that pays employees to volunteer at a food pantry or to support military families, you are actually making a difference in the community and in the lives of the people around you. Your employees will feel and see this difference and will be able to own a piece of positive change. As they own that, they will be keenly aware that the company made that empowerment possible.
3. It Impacts Employee Retention. When a company "talks the talk" and "walks the walk," the employees take notice. They feel proud to work for a company that supports the community and this makes them more committed to their jobs. Interestingly, this pride occurs even if an employee chooses not to participate in the corporate philanthropy. Just knowing the company does it and is committed to it will be a source of pride. An employee who is proud to work for their company and committed to their job is an employee who shows up and keeps showing up.
I should mention here that corporate social responsibility isn't a politically charged endeavor, nor should it be. Helping homeless youth access resources or helping stock shelves at a food pantry is pretty non-partisan work. It's just work that needs to be done.
In my 20 years as a corporate executive, I can tell you that few things excite a staff more than knowing the work they are doing makes a difference in the lives of the people around them. Meeting sales goals and project deadlines are important of course, and necessary to sustain the life of a corporation, but being a good corporate citizen is what gives a company its heart.