Professionalisation of Charities? Perhaps Not So Scary After All
6 September 2016 at 10:42 am
It’s no longer enough for your corporate partnerships to align in reputation alone – if you’re not sharing tangible community impact, it’s not going to be worth your time, nor theirs, writes Good2Give CEO Lisa Grinham.
Over the last two weeks, Good2Give brought together 60 professionals who manage large corporate foundations and quite hefty community budgets.
We hold these events regularly to nut out what’s working and hopefully learn from each other’s wins and hiccups. This month we spoke to how corporate social responsibility (CSR) was shaping up for Australia’s top 100 ASX companies and whether it in fact had delivered on the business case once promised.
While CSR for these companies is now virtually a license to operate, those managing strategic community initiatives, continue to face scrutiny on their budgets and whether they’re worth further investment.
When it comes to an organisational restructure, a rebrand or new senior leadership, it doesn’t seem to matter how well established the community program’s been, the question pops up: “How much do we really want to invest in the feel good?”
This is particularly the case when a company’s core values come under review. Building a business case to express these in the community becomes that much harder to make. Potentially leaving CSR (and their budgets) on rocky grounds.
Successful program managers are navigating this by setting up committees with senior leadership to reset expectations and apply some steady measures of how this will be achieved. Amidst the vast array of business measures that companies are now exploring through altruism and shared value, improved reputation remains an oldie but goldie.
We continue to hear the astronomical difference that workplace giving, grant programs, strong charity partnerships, volunteering and the like, have on company reputations. One ASX company recorded improvements in their net promoter scores of between 10 and 20 points due to their community program.
And when it comes to building or protecting company reputation, executives would be hard pressed to see such impact from any one product launch or advertising campaign. It’s this community work that our clients are demonstrating as saving shareholder support amidst protests, and preserving business amidst challenging press.
At the recent forums, perceived insincerity of CSR was raised on more than one occasion as a big inhibitor to this from receiving acknowledgement in the boardroom and indeed even with staff. Public and stakeholder scepticism cuts deep into ongoing senior support of CSR budgets. So let’s not make these programs insincere, let’s give companies all the justification they need to get buy in and further investment.
This not only means that community programs need to stay true to the company’s services and values, but from a charity perspective, it also means demonstrating real impact that the public can acknowledge and their shareholders can be proud of.
Sophisticated CSR teams are not only espousing the funds granted, the number of charities supported, but they’re shouting out the community difference they’ve made. And in turn they’re using services like Good2Give’s to assess not only whether an animal service has tax breaks, but whether the organisation itself has the financial diligence, governance and strategic direction to deliver on its mission.
Admittedly, I’ve been somewhat concerned by the rising professionalisation of charities. Particularly as AICD NFP sector leader Phil Butler recently pointed out, in a number of industries we’re seeing charities competing for clients with the very companies they previously received philanthropy from.
However, when it comes to preserving and building corporate budgets for community investment, the more professional they are in governance and accountability, the better. More so, the better charities are at working strategically and not only assessing their output but more importantly demonstrating their impact, the easier it will be for companies to assure their public and preserve valuable community budgets.
We’re still a long way from achieving the corporate community investment levels apparent in Europe and America, and it will be a while before I suspect the 1 per cent profit campaign will take off here. Strong community cases for the investment of corporate support however, will do nothing but provide the ammunition for the next stage of CSR among the top 100 ASX.
About the author: Lisa Grinham is the CEO of Good2Give, a Not for Profit which works with companies to encourage corporate philanthropy via effective corporate community investment programs. Good2Give provides advice on all aspects of a corporate community investment program and ongoing management of workplace giving programs, matched giving programs, grants programs and corporate foundations.