Choosing the best fit for your company’s philanthropic efforts is a challenge in any economy. At CA Technologies, we decided to be more strategic in our giving. Our focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education has led to great results. The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy’s latest “Giving in Numbers” report shows that CA Technologies is not alone in its mission to engage in more targeted giving. Among the 164 respondents surveyed, 31% indicated that they are devoting more than half of their philanthropic funding to a single program area.
Its most recent report also shows that overall corporate philanthropy levels have grown, rebounding from a dip in 2009 when the economy slowed. Some 60% of respondents said that they had stepped-up giving since then.
These days, however, companies are making fewer grants, for larger amounts, and are allocating those funds to a smaller set of focus areas.
In tight economic times, strategic giving has easy appeal. But targeting corporate-giving in a way that will maximize reach involves hard work and difficult choices. In CA Technologies’ case, more targeted giving has yielded great dividends—though not without great effort. Here’s how we’ve made strategic giving work for us and, most important, the communities we serve.
With limited resources, it’s essential to take a thoughtful approach to finding nonprofit partnerships that provide the biggest bang for the buck. We have looked for programs that complement and align with our business and are broad enough to tap multiple geographic locations where our company operates.
For CA Technologies, a software company, focusing on education and encouraging the next generation of IT leaders was an obvious fit. Working with Boys & Girls Clubs of America on our Tech Girls Rock initiative was a decision that made perfect sense—with clubs throughout the United States offering opportunities for our employees to get involved locally.
THE RIGHT FIT
But choosing to focus heavily on this area—and not only on our existing customer base—was admittedly a risk.
We knew our existing constituencies well enough to have faith that they would embrace our investment, particularly in the segment of the population that comes from traditionally disadvantaged socioeconomic groups.
Our faith paid off, and our investment in the next generation of IT leaders generated enthusiasm in the current generation.
As our experience shows, finding a natural fit for your company more often leads to additional opportunities for exposure. Once we made our way into the network of STEM education funders and fundees, there was a domino effect, which quickly raised our profile in this area.
Our Tech Girls Rock initiative has been highlighted at the last two Clinton Global Initiative annual meetings and was publicly recognized by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. We’ve also received significant media exposure and recently participated in the White House Tech Inclusion Summit.
Our commitment to raising the level and quality of STEM education programs is not limited to the U.S. Through global partnerships with organizations throughout Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America, we are dedicated to showing the wide range of opportunities in the tech sector to younger people throughout the world.
With a small team—only three people manage the company’s philanthropic programs for nearly 14,000 employees globally—we rely on colleagues in other parts of the world who serve as local champions for our initiatives. Thankfully, our department falls under the Corporate Communications umbrella, so many of these colleagues work within public relations and can help manage media outreach in their respective countries.
ACROSS THE BOARD
Another equally important component is having executive champions to help spread the word, rally the employees and serve as evangelists for your programs. Corporate-giving departments especially benefit from the support of top executives, and that includes your Board of Directors.
At CA Technologies, we meet with our board on a regular basis, and the directors play a key role in keeping our efforts on track. They see the value that comes from supporting programs that align with our company’s philosophy, with benefits realized not only in terms of media coverage, but also in the way our sales teams have been able to promote our nonprofit partnerships.
When working with an organization that’s focused on education and technology, we have found there is a much higher chance that a Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer (the important folks in our world) will react positively to our products if we’ve supported programs within their areas of expertise.
Keeping a strategic focus comes with other challenges. You sometimes may be faced with explaining to senior leaders why their pet cause—while as worthwhile as the next—may not be the best fit for your company. But if you present your case in a strategic, factual and logical way— and offer an opportunity to get involved with an initiative that is in tune with the corporation’s overall philosophy— senior executives are likely to embrace a well-devised strategy of giving.
In summary, we do things not simply because they are the right thing to do, but because they are the smart thing to do.
We believe it is good business for our company to look toward the future and encourage the next generation of business leaders through STEM education.
If we can show the value in our corporate-giving programs—whether it be through media coverage or networking and sales opportunities—our strategy of smart, focused giving is more likely to lead to increased funding.
And that greater funding will foster growth of programs that not only make sense for our company, but help the community at large. PRN
(This is an excerpt from PR News’ Corporate Social Responsibility Gudiebook. To oder a copy, please go to www.prnewsonline.com/csr-green-pr-guidebook-vol-6/.)
Branding Your CSR Programs And Bonding With Your Partners
Brand your program. Come up with a unique name; create a logo. It makes the initiative that much more real and appealing.
Don’t be afraid to ask your nonprofit partners what you want in return for your support. I’ve learned that it’s better to be up front about expectations at the start and formalize plans in a detailed agreement. Then there is no room for confusion or misunderstanding later.
Your partner can be useful in myriad ways, including collaboration on press releases and help with media outreach. It’s much better to have someone else praise you than do it yourself, especially when it’s an organization known for doing great work in the community. Get their help posting updates to social media outlets and regularly reporting on outcomes and achievements.
Ask your partner to take high-quality photos at events and even help create a video highlighting your program. These can be helpful tools to showcase your efforts and gain support for your programs.
Bottom line: work together to get results that benefit everyone. This is a partnership, after all, and you don’t need to, or want to, go it alone. —E.C
This article appeared in the November 25 issue of PR News. Subscribe to PR News today to receive weekly comprehensive coverage of the most fundamental PR topics from visual storytelling to crisis management to media training.