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Corporate giving: Doing good is good business

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

{safe_alt_text}Many Oregon business leaders have discovered that participating in philanthropic efforts helps improve their company’s bottom line. They have found that a business can do well by doing good.

For some of these companies “doing good” follows the model of “checkbook charity” — simply contributing money to good causes. Certainly, such giving has an important place in helping sustain local nonprofits. But for many businesses, corporate philanthropy has expanded to include giving programs that tie donations of time, money and gifts-in-kind to defined business goals and desired benefits.

Taking a broader view of business giving options creates the opportunity for companies to have a hand in contributing to the health of the community. And in so doing, organizations can tap into the strength of “cause marketing” —  engaging consumers’ hearts as well as their minds and creating the potential to build strong and enduring relationships.

In fact, Cone’s 2004 Corporate Citizenship Study and 1999 Cause Trends Report show that Americans are increasingly making purchasing, employment and investment decisions that reward companies that play an active role in supporting community needs. Of note:

  • 87% of employees at companies with cause marketing programs feel a stronger sense of loyalty to their employers.
  • 83% of Americans have a more positive image of companies that support a cause they care about.
  • 80% of Americans say that corporate support of causes wins their trust in that company.
  • 81% of consumers indicate they would switch brands or retailers to one associated with a good cause, when price and quality are equal.
  • 76% of Americans say that a company’s commitment to causes is important when they decide where to work — and employees whose companies have cause-related programs are significantly more likely to say they are proud of their company’s values.
  • More than 75% of consumers say that a company’s commitment to causes is important when they decide what to buy or where to shop.
  • More than 60% of Americans state that a company’s commitment to causes is important when they decide which stocks/mutual funds to invest in.

All the above statistics notwithstanding — from bottom-line corporate health to consumer loyalty — there are many reasons why a well thought out giving program makes good sense for your business. Studies show the following results can occur when a company undertakes a charitable giving program:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Enhanced corporate image and
  • reputation
  • Improved consumer loyalty and sales
  • Differentiation from competitors
  • Positive perceptions about products and services
  • Pride among employees — and a healthier and more productive workforce
  • A healthier, more livable and
  • economically strong community
  • Community goodwill and recognition as a good corporate neighbor
  • A competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining employees

To achieve the benefits associated with corporate philanthropy your corporation might consider setting out a strategic plan that defines your expected returns and establishes benchmarks to gauge success. To that end, the tactics for your business-giving program likely will fit into one of three categories:

1. Transactional: These programs inspire participation in supporting your selected nonprofit cause with an offer to make a contribution based on a consumer activity, such as buying a specific product from you, redeeming a coupon, registering at a website or shopping your retail site.

2. Sponsorship: Such joint campaigns raise awareness of a cause’s message (e.g., fight heart disease) or participation in its programs (e.g., join us in a beach cleanup) while building a positive association with the corporate sponsor or its brands.

3. Licensing: Typically, a nonprofit licenses a company to develop, produce, market or distribute a product that is promoted either with the organization’s brand name or co-branded with names of both the company and the nonprofit.

Oregon has a wealth of nonprofit resources that provide vital programs and services. Their presence provides your business with authentic opportunities to make a positive impact — through cause marketing and corporate philanthropy — that will return many-fold in benefits for your company, the nonprofits you support and all Oregonians.  (www.oregoninvolved.org is an excellent resource.)

— Greg Chaillé, president,
Oregon Community Foundation, www.ocfl.org.
The Oregon Community Foundation offers advice on the tax benefits of setting up a business or family foundation and provides guidance for charitable giving.


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