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Why More And More Companies Are Doing Social Good

Originally published by Brian Rashid, Forbes [link] on April 25, 2017

When thinking about the legacy of Microsoft and its founder, Bill Gates, often the first thing that comes to mind is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: a multinational nonprofit organization working to improve the lives of everyday people. The foundation is a significant part of the brand’s image and mission, and contributes to Microsoft’s reputation as Apple’s kinder sibling

Like the Gates Foundation, many companies are putting more resources into philanthropic work, and for good reason. Along with the warm feelings associated with altruism, business leaders contributing to the social good recognize that benefit philanthropy can provide for any company. Here are a few core benefits associated with having your company commit to social and community work. 

Giving The Company A Sense Of Purpose 

Committing a business to philanthropy creates a vision for the company beyond turning a profit. This helps re-energize a business leader’s drive due to having emotionally fulfilling projects on the docket. That renewed passion can then manifest itself in business leaders’ work and vision, driving innovation and eventual growth. 

For instance, Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, grew inspired to start the company after a trip to Argentina during which he learned that many children lacked shoes. TOMS is for-profit, and uses the innovative One for One strategy to make philanthropy its core mission. Having earned about $400 million to date, Mycoskie has mastered the art of using social issues to drive his creativity and eventually, his revenue. 

Maintaining The Brand Story 

One of the most important aspects of brand value and loyalty, is whether or not the brand is authentic and relatable. As you sculpt out what your brand stands for and ought to represent to consumers, social good works to add another layer of depth and realism for that narrative.  Developing an authentic and socially conscious brand story will help set you apart from your competition. 

SUAVS Shoes is a minimalist footwear company, which donates any slightly imperfect pairs to Soles4Souls.  As the founder Monxi Garza says, “We would receive factory imperfections that looked perfectly fine and it felt like a waste to throw them out.” Minimalism focuses on never being excessive or wasteful, so this social action, which does not cost the company anything extra, helps develop their core philosophies. 

Facilitating Employee Engagement 

Employees who believe in their organization’s mission and projects will invest more into their work. By setting up philanthropic projects in which employees can participate, business leaders can inspire workers and establish some passion among them. Much like how social giving can drive the creativity of business leaders, it can also spark innovation among office workers. An inspired employee is often more productive than an unfulfilled one. 

“As a CEO, it’s all about building a great culture; a great organization, so it starts with sharing and effectively communicating your vision and aligning employees behind that mission,” says Albert Gjonbalaj, CEO of UA Builders Group. “We are a mission driven company and that works out nicely with millennials who want something more than just a job; they want a purpose. So, our challenge, in taking this organization to its next level, is to attract better and more engaged people who are mission focused, talented, resourceful and driven to a purpose.” 

Further, fostering employee respect for the company by making it clear that the company is committed to the social good can promote motivation to work. Bolstering employee morale and respect should be a priority for businesses, as this contributes to the overall good of the company.  

Cisco Systems does a great job of this through the Cisco Networking Academy: a nonprofit program that trains underprivileged people in computer network administration. While focusing on social needs, Cisco has also enfranchised a large population of computer network administrators who are motivated to work for the company and could make excellent employees.  

Building Bonds With The Community 

Many believe that for-profit businesses hold unwritten social contracts with their communities. Much like their employees, consumers prefer interacting with organizations they respect; by entering the community through philanthropic work, businesses can establish a brand that people feel good about.  

Basically, if a company helps a community in some way, that community will often support the company in return. Plus, direct interaction with the local customer base can increase awareness of a small business in a positive (and low-cost) way. 

A great example of this in action is the Mr. Handyman franchise in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Kevin Crysler, the franchise owner, worked with employees to renovate a local fire station. The small business engaged directly with members of the community, generating local media attention. Since the community members recognized the brand and positive associations with it, the franchise quickly became successful and revenues increased. 

Connecting With Target Demographics 

The connection with certain customer bases facilitated by community work goes hand-in-hand with building community bonds. By doing philanthropic work in local communities, your company can interact with the markets you wish to attract, while catering to what attracts them. Building strong bonds with these groups can then facilitate a loyal customer base.  

Of course, it’s important to be sincere – many consumers can smell false philanthropy from a mile away – but targeted, authentic community projects can help build mutually-beneficial relationships with target markets.

To attract the coveted Gen Z demographic, for instance, many companies are establishing corporate scholarships. One major characteristic of people in these demographics is their skyrocketing levels of debt – an area in which corporations can flex their philanthropic muscles and enter target markets at the same time.  

By providing scholarships, such as Sidelineswap’s #GearForAYear scholarship for student-athletes, companies can establish relationships directly with those the brand is trying to attract.  

For companies trying to increase revenues and establish a positive brand image, contributing to philanthropy is near-vital. By creating and maintaining authentic initiatives, doing social good can do your company good, as well.