Corporate philanthropy is growing: Where should you put your dollars?

Corporate giving rose by 7 percent in 2020, with gains for racial awareness, climate change and others.

More and more companies see the need to give to growing grassroots movements and organizations that affect their communities.

So where should your company put its dollars for maximum impact?

It depends on your company’s values and goals. If your company is already focused on sustainability and going “green,” then your philanthropic choices should reflect that mission, said Thomas Kane of Merrill Private Wealth Management and a frequent writer and speaker on the importance of philanthropy.

“Donating to the causes you are passionate about not only benefits the charity itself, it also can be deeply rewarding to you, the individual, and to your company,” Kane said. “Having the means to impact the lives of other people is a privilege and is also a good way to reinforce your own personal values. It can also convince the people around you to follow suit. If your co-workers, children, friends or family members see you contributing to a charity, they are more likely to get involved, too.”

The major cornerstones of modern sustainability in business are climate change, racial equity and health and wellness. After The Black Lives Matter movement took off in 2020, racial equality has received a philanthropic boost from many major companies, and many major corporations have heeded the call.

JP Morgan Chase donated $50 billion to groups focused on racial equality. That amount included $2 billion specifically for philanthropy, and the company also made a public commitment to increasing diversity among its employees.

Similarly, Apple and Intel have also created initiatives aimed at racial equality and fueled by philanthropy.

But if your company doesn’t want to wade into broader political issues like climate change or racial equality, one of the best things you can do is find ways to give back to your community.

Support Kickstarter campaigns:

One of the easiest ways for a company to connect with their town or community is to support the underdogs. It’s easy to find the newest ideas and local businesses through Kickstarter and similar indie-funding campaigns. You can back the creator financially, offer mentorship to start-ups that could use the advice of a major player in the business community, and help a good idea grow into a new and successful company.

Holiday Food Drives:

This is an oldie and a goodie. Donation centers advertise for months looking for businesses to donate food, money and necessary items that help families over the holidays.

This is an easy way not only to donate, but get your employees involved with some team-building exercises. You could have a competition to see what departments bring in the most canned goods, or have a volunteer day, where employees help with the intake and organization of donated goods.

Host a Fundraiser:

Even a small fundraising event can generate big results for your company, Thomas Kane said.

“A small operation that doesn’t have a lot of money can still host a great fundraiser,” he said. “You can make it more focused or even an employee-only event. For larger companies, gala dinners and annual events provide opportunities for donors to interact and learn more about the organization.”

Those kinds of events are typically held by large scale organizations: i.e. hospitals, corporations, and others. Regardless of the platform, it’s crucial that the event is marketed to your target audience and supporters and reinforces the overall charitable mission.

If you’re not sure where to start, try to research some organizations that you like. Research tools such as Charity Navigator publish helpful reports about nonprofits.