With its rambling aisles swelling with inventory, indulgent American snack foods, and iconic membership card, big-box retailer Costco seems integral to the shopping experience of the American family.
But Costco is perhaps regarded just as much for its social consciousness, which includes a commitment to paying employees livable wages and participation in green initiatives like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The retailer also continually seeks opportunities to contribute to charitable causes; in 2020, for instance, it invested $25 million in the start-up Black Economic Development Fund, whose goal is to boost economic opportunities for African Americans.
Perhaps other companies should take notice and follow suit. It’s hard to say how much of Costco’s success can be attributed to its philanthropy, but it has certainly elevated the company in the eyes of consumers. Such commitment to important causes serves to increase brand awareness, cement loyalty, and engender a sense of consumer satisfaction on which successful businesses rely. Thus, generosity is an essential leadership practice you should foster in 2023.
The benefits of giving back
Charitable giving can positively impact your company in many broad and potentially profitable ways, from boosting employee morale to increasing the business you attract. Raise your company’s philanthropic efforts, and you may find new growth in three key areas.
Leading your change
Giving back can improve your business leadership skills and even align with your professional agenda. For instance,overseeing a volunteer event or fundraiser challenges you to translate your team-leadership abilities into a new environment with different demands. How well can you organize your team while participating in volunteer services like a food drive or park cleanup? How can you be a model for proactive service and, in turn, inspire others through your example? You may not be in professional attire while at these events, but you can still apply the charisma and results-oriented attitude integral to being a respectable leader.
Results across your team
Working to assist those in need in your community can also be a boon to your team. For one, group participation in corporate philanthropy events is a pitchperfect team-building opportunity. As Nikki Carlson, cofounder and copresident of the PR and marketing firm ChicExecs, writes in Forbes, “The best way to foster employee happiness and engagement is by having a mission. When you have happy, motivated employees, your brand thrives.” While some leaders establish authority through intimidation, being a leader who encourages philanthropy and plans teambuilding events will better rouse subordinates to trust, like, and feel inspired by you.
A spotlight on your efforts
Being a champion for a cause may also offer comparable organizational growth. There is no shame in admitting that giving back to charitable causes is a savvy business strategy. A rational leader takes every occasion to promote their business, and giving back happens to be a wonderful way to generate brand awareness. Taking such steps toward probable financial returns is expected of any organization’s leadership, so be as brazen as you like with your self-promotion. At the end of the day, you’re still giving to those in need—and both parties profiting from your efforts is just good business sense. Partake in charitable giving, and you’ll see many potential returns. Carlson adds that shoppers across the country are eager to patronize charitable companies and have positive feelings about doing so, sensing that their spending will be put to humanitarian use rather than simply feed corporate greed. Plus, doing good can inspire a positive public image of your brand—a sense of admiration and warm familiarity that may very well sway a customer away from your competitors. Continue to give back, promoting your works across various platforms, to cement this customer loyalty. There’s also considerable networking potential. Every individual you meet is a networking opportunity, and representing your organization in impactful events like a food drive can avail you of many fruitful connections. Sunil Kumar, CEO of Reliance Real Estate, recalls on Leaderonomics.com promoting his organization’s charitable activities with surprising results: “At least three very important big businesses have had meetings with myself and my teams … Additionally, thirty to forty different business [sic] have contributed to raise funds for our initiatives.” There are ample benefits to be found in charitable initiatives—from the satisfaction of making an impact on others’ lives to the opportunities to increase brand awareness and form meaningful partnerships.
Exploring corporate philanthropy opportunities
There are more ways than ever for businesses to give back, and the first step to utilizing these opportunities is identifying a compatible service. Food for Life Global features a detailed list of corporate philanthropy services, which it breaks into six essential categories:
- Community grants: directly funding an organization based on certain requirements
- Corporate sponsorships: donating to a nonprofit organization in exchange for publicity
- Employee and board grant stipends: awarding grants to individual employees or community boards, who then donate the funds to a cause of their choosing
- Matching gifts: promoting a charity or cause, inspiring employees to contribute to it, and then either matching or exceeding the total amount donated
- Volunteer grants: donating to an organization where its employees often volunteer or are encouraged to do so
- Volunteer support initiatives: advocating for a nonprofit and encouraging others to donate their time or funds accordingly
The next step is to assess your company’s available resources, including cash, employee hours, and even donatable goods, to determine how your company should participate in corporate philanthropy. Then take your place at the megaphone: this is your opportunity to spread the message and generate involvement. You, your on any leader. n team, and your company as a whole stand to benefit from how you helm a humanitarian initiative. Identify causes that align with your company’s branding, mission, or founder. Just as your relationships influence you personally and business partnerships affect your practices, the causes you support also influence public perception of your brand. So give serious forethought to the organizations you select—who you contribute to is even more crucial than the amount of time or resources you donate.
As you consider your options, take care to avoid “causewashing,” or making empty, unfulfilled charitable promises. This includes the muchderided act of making eco-friendly promises or donations while your business’s environmental footprint betrays your own initiatives. Carlson refers to the example of conducting breast cancer awareness fundraising via beauty products that contain known carcinogens. The public can see through such hypocrisy, and the consequences for your organization’s brand perception may be irreversible. Instead, follow the example of the natural beverage company Rebbl, which has donated over $2 million from net sales to anti-humantrafficking organizations while also partaking in compatible sustainable labor practices. Its insistence that “today’s shoppers have the power to play a substantial role in shifting the environmental landscape” is not only a charitable call to action but also a subtle sales pitch.
Corporate philanthropy in action
Once you identify a cause, you can begin working with team members to strategize action in detail. For inspiration, take a look at Costco’s sustainability key performance indicator chart, which is freely available on its website. This chart outlines its sustainability and eco-friendly practice goals, sets its commitments against measurable goalposts, and quantifies its performance over time. How can you follow this model in your organization, and what are reasonable volunteer hours or funding goals you can establish? Once you put your goals to paper, you will have a framework you can use to take action and inspire others to get on board. As you realize your initiatives, you might discover some roadblocks, such as being short on cash. In that case, find creative ways to give back, like leading a volunteer support initiative in exchange for paid time off, participating in a recycling program, or appropriating a portion of your existing marketing budget to a corporate sponsorship. The opportunities are virtually endless. No matter what you do, striving toward humanitarian goals will not only benefit your cause but also spotlight your organization’s efforts. Such positive results is bound to reflect well and generate involvement. You, your on any leader.