Corporate Giving Strategies Are Good Business

By Michele Carey, CAP®, Director, Professional Advisor Relations, Greater Cincinnati Foundation

Many local companies take pride in the way they give back to their communities, and their contributions – whether financial, service hours, or talent share – can become a keystone of their corporate values, internal culture, and regional presence. Especially in the wake of the considerable and enduring challenges caused by the pandemic throughout communities, more businesses are answering the call for support and leaning in to help. And in times of such need for staff recruitment and retention, workers commonly show preference for employers that demonstrate good citizenship, community concern, and investment.  

How a company gives back is often the question and a focus of its strategic goals. Which neighborhoods, which populations, which issue areas, and which partners would be well-aligned targets for support? Which assets might be most impactful to use? What’s the approach? What are the desired outcomes? How does your company convert its philanthropic strategies into strategic philanthropy?

Here are three tips for best practices in corporate philanthropy:

1. Align your philanthropy with your brand and engage your employees in deciding where community dollars go

Just as you want your business audience to recognize and know you by your brand, you want your corporate values clearly reflected in your community contributions. Perhaps those contributions relate to your consumer base, product line, or workforce. If you run corporate giving programs, encouraging employee leadership and empowering them to choose where they give their money will be key to their success and can garner more annual philanthropic dollars for the community, including increased dollars to traditional workplace campaigns such as United Way and ArtsWave. For a deeper dive into how this might look for your company, take a look at the white paper “The Logistics of Corporate Giving: Six Proven Strategies to strengthen Millennial and Gen Z Engagement,” written by TQL in partnership with Paycor and 84.51.

2. Find meaningful opportunities for employee volunteerism

Many people like to give their time to their communities and appreciate when their employers organize impactful service events and encourage participation by letting them serve during business hours. Cincinnati Cares, a local source for corporate volunteer opportunities, uses innovative technologies to connect businesses to nonprofits and their needs and to modernize the way their employees serve our region's nonprofits.

3. Consider “founder’s philanthropy”  

Company founders can make gifts of privately held shares of C-Corp, S-Corp, and LLC units to create a charitable fund for their corporate or personal philanthropy. The owners of Skyline Chili and the founder of Paycor are examples of business leaders who have taken this approach to give back to our region and encourage other business owners to consider this when thinking about transitioning their businesses to new ownership, whether family members, other shareholders, or outside buyers. For example, some founders with closely-held appreciated C-Corporation stock, who are years away from selling their businesses, will employ a strategy to buy back donated stock from the nonprofit as a  “charitable bailout” or “charitable redemption.”  These gifts, like any asset that has appreciated in financial value over time, have tax benefits for the owners and also create opportunities for exponential community impact.

Need a place to get started? Many experienced community foundations are equipped to be key partners for companies of all sizes in helping define and execute their charitable strategies. This is especially true for private and family businesses with proud local roots, or businesses that may lack the capacity to create their own foundations or dedicated staff time for researching investment opportunities. As major regional grantmakers, community foundations focus their work on knowing the greatest, current needs of their communities, which organizations and leaders are best addressing them, and how to enlist others’ support. These foundations can custom-tailor programs for a business to develop and execute a corporate giving strategy in a way that reflects and enhances the company’s values and reinforces its brand.

Whatever path a business takes to serve the community, the example it sets for civic engagement is an important one that will communicate brand value to customers and increase employee engagement while making the world a better place.

For more information, contact Michele Carey, CAP®, at 513-768-6171 or Michele.Carey@gcfdn.org.

Greater Cincinnati Foundation is a Goering Center sponsor, and the Goering Center is sharing this content as part of its monthly newsletter, which features member and sponsor articles.

About the Goering Center for Family & Private Business

Established in 1989, the Goering Center serves more than 400 member companies, making it North America’s largest university-based educational non-profit center for family and private businesses. The Center’s mission is to nurture and educate family and private businesses to drive a vibrant economy. Affiliation with the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati provides access to a vast resource of business programing and expertise. Goering Center members receive real-world insights that enlighten, strengthen and prolong family and private business success. For more information on the Center, participation and membership visit goering.uc.edu.