Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 Business Philanthropy Trends That Get More of a Bang

Reviewing my top picks of tweets and posts from this last year has provided me with an opportunity to observe the exciting themes and trends in business philanthropy that have emerged in 2009 . Paying attention to these trends and seeing how they can be incorporated into a giving plan can help small and medium sized businesses find ways to add value and increase the impact of their philanthropy in this next year, which, I believe, will make an even bigger "bang" in 2010

Matching the philanthropy with the business core objectives
Restaurants and food companies, like the Cheesecake Factory have taken on the cause of fighting hunger, but other industries like Sunoco, have come up with creative ways to match their philanthropy with their core business. Matching the philanthropy with the core business makes a lot of sense. It takes away the burden of an organization going through a process of deciding which kind of charity to support and utilizes the expertise that maximizes the strengths of the business.

Volunteering to supplement donations
This is probably the biggest trend in business philanthropy in the past year. As companies were struggling with the own economic difficulties and were unable maintain the same level of financial support to charities as before, they found that volunteering and pro-bono services could help support charities in more economically feasible ways. Even if the economy improves in 2010 and philanthropic giving has a rebound, companies will continue with their volunteerism. Companies have discovered the many benefits of volunteerism to the morale and satisfaction of company employees and charities have discovered how to better utilize company volunteer teams to their benefit also. This will be a trend that will continue to grow.

Cause marketing. Differentiating cause marketing from philanthropy is becoming increasingly more important. There are many consultants and blogs out there posting definitions of and having debates about the difference between cause marketing and philanthropy. Nevertheless, more and more big companies, see my latest blog post about Pepsi, and small local businesses are choosing this kind of support as a way to help and give back to local and global causes. If the end result of a cause marketing program is that a percentage of the returns are donated towards a worthwhile cause, businesses need to consider this trend as a serious option achieving their philanthropic goals.

Starting a business that gives back a percent. Whether it's giving a shoe for every shoe bought as in Tom's Shoes, or allocating a percent of profits that go back to charity, more and more entrepreneur's are starting businesses where the giving a percentage of profits to charity is baked into the mission and the business plan. I have posted stories about some of these businesses in 2009, Brokers for Charity, Glassybaby and others.

Involving the customer. Teaming up with customers is a great way to both raise money for charity and to raise awareness for a favorite cause. The jar on the counter or the collection bin in the hallway, is still a tried and true way to raise money or goods. Food stores like Whole Foods, has monthly local charities where they ask customers to support by donating spare change and Safeway supermarkets has seasonal fundraisers for breast and prostate cancer asking customers to add a dollar or two to their bill to help fund cancer research. Smaller service businesses have used their tip jars to go towards a local charity of their choice. Hotels That Help give customers the option of adding $1.oo a per night donation to their bill that will go to the hotel's charity of choice.

Social media involvement. The newest form of "involving the customer or consumer" is by using social media. This past year businesses like Microsoft through their "I'm e-mailing for Good Program", have been asking users to vote for their favorite charities that Microsoft will donate to. While this is sometimes part of a cause marketing program like Pepsi's "The Pepsi Refresh Project", in the case of Replyforall, user's choose which cause to support in their online signature. Facebook has gotten into the act too, helping out the Intel "As Sponsors of Tomorrow™" program, where Facebook users can nominate and vote for their favorite non-profit.

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