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Corporate “Charity”: Why Organizations Should Care About Giving Back

by on February 9, 2010

While the concept of philanthropy is not a new one, the way charitable giving is approached by companies needs to be examined, and likely be reconsidered. Corporations have many alternatives to traditional, unfocused monetary philanthropy work. Both social causes and companies can benefit from a more strategic and thoughtful approach to how corporations can forge better connections between the two. Partly because of the changing nature of how and where companies build extended communities, the role philanthropy plays can help make the transition more profitable, innovative, and sustainable.

Philanthropic donations and “charity” work is a corporate practice that has a long history throughout the industrial era. Many corporations give to different social causes, from supporting the ballet and museums to funding education and health initiatives. Regardless of size, many corporations have some sort of charitable program, supporting causes with donations, events, and programs.

There is huge potential for companies to “give back” to the world while also benefiting the company, complementing the strategic goals that guide it. Companies should seriously consider the rewards and positive impact that different kinds of charity and philanthropic giving can have not only on their extended network, but directly on success and the future of the company.

Companies should begin to consider other ways that they can build both profitable and socially responsible practices for various social causes. Building partnerships with not-for-profit organizations, restructuring organizational philanthropic focus, supporting employee volunteer opportunities, and restructuring organizational priorities are all alternatives to unfocused traditional “charity” work, and are all likely to bring various beneficial returns back to a company. PATH, IBM, Cisco, Ben & Jerry’s, and McGraw-Hill have all responded or led the corporate philanthropic transformation through these measures, and exemplify why corporations should care about giving back.

— Emily Oxenford


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