Corporate Philanthropy: Looking Beyond the Check

Jan 30, 2012 11:00 AM ET

What Do You Stand For?

While charitable giving is finally back on the rise, so too are the pressures facing nonprofits in appealing to corporate partners. Gone are the days of writing checks to the CEO's favorite "pet" charity, as companies look deeper into the business case for philanthropy. Two new studies released this week demonstrate that employee engagement and ROI from product donations are often key drivers in determining which nonprofit organization to support.

A recent study by Forbes Insights found that 72 percent of the 311 global senior executives surveyed said they primarily donate to charities that also allow their employees to volunteer. Moreover, respondents cited that in addition to social benefits, the top two goals behind philanthropy and community involvement programs are employee motivation and increased skills/leadership. In the case of MasterCard, sending employees to volunteer with Grameen Foundation in Colombia gave staff on-the-ground experience in microfinance and mobile technology, as well as a new perspective of the financial reality of people across the globe. Employees returned armed with new skills to make a difference in their own communities.

Another recent report released from Indiana University examined the business case for product philanthropy. The report found that beyond environmental and social benefits, there is actual return on investment in donating excess inventory instead of liquidating or destroying it. Nonprofits are already cropping up to fill this need, including Good360, an online product donation platform used by some of the world's biggest brands.

While companies may be writing new rules for corporate philanthropy, nonprofits can come to the table prepared. Nonprofits can look to create a diverse spectrum of employee engagement opportunities from company-wide days of service for broad participation to leadership skills-based volunteering. Organizations that work to create sought-after business case metrics for corporate philanthropy will take the lead. While these pressures may be difficult for many nonprofits to manage in the short-term, the end result is strong corporate partnerships, a new group of ambassadors and enhanced capacity for greater social impact.