There was a time in America when companies distanced themselves from controversial social and political issues for fear of losing market share. But in today’s social climate, staying neutral is no longer an option. In fact, many companies are discovering that taking a stand on sensitive social issues can help to drive social change.
As pointed out in a recent Newsweek article, “Since the passage of civil rights legislation in the 20th century, companies increasingly look more like America.” As a result, “…they now see social change as an imperative to their own values.”
Companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Google are all known for exercising social responsibility through various charity initiatives. And the reviews of Nu Skin’s Force For Good foundation show great strides in the areas of Health, Education, Economic Opportunity, and Disaster Relief throughout the world.
Right now you’re probably thinking that this is all well and good for mega organizations, but what can your small to medium-sized business do to develop charity initiatives within your company culture?
In answer to that question here are five ways to make your company an agent for social change.
- Engage Your Employees
More than ever before, today’s employees want to give something back to the community. This is especially true of the Millennials in your workforce. They don’t just want compensation as a reward like many baby boomers do. They are passionate about various social issues and expect their employers to support their desires to apply what they know in meaningful ways to bring about social change. If you find yourself looking for an issue to get behind, your employees will help you to find it.
- Make a Stand
Once you’ve selected an issue you need to make a stand by setting a clear goal and mobilizing the resources needed to accomplish it. This isn’t about just throwing money at a problem. It’s about allocating resources to find realistic solutions to the problem, implementing those solutions, and becoming accountable for the outcome. The more clear and specific the goal is the better the chance of accomplishing it.
- Measure and Evaluate Performance
It may make you feel good inside to invest business capital and other resources into a nonprofit organization that is focused solely on a particular social issue that your company has gotten behind. But it would be foolish to do so without first determining credible ways of measuring and evaluating the performance of your investment. The key to doing that is to insist on transparency from the organizations you support. If an organization can’t show you that it has clear and concrete plans, that it knows how to implement those plans to solve the social issues that your organization is vested in, and that it has the ability to measure the results of its work, you should probably consider reducing your support, or finding another organization that can quantify and evaluate your ROI.
- Strike a Balance Between Philanthropic and Social Giving
Philanthropic giving to various charities is a natural part of giving back for most companies, and yours is probably not an exception. That being said, helping to promote social change requires a commitment of resources to businesses and enterprises that serve a social purpose. This means that you’ll need to reevaluate how your company’s resources are being allocated between philanthropic and social giving. And while showing greater support for social giving doesn’t have to preclude philanthropic contributions to worthwhile charities, a growing body of evidence suggests that social giving can do more to bring about social change, at the same time increasing employee engagement and workplace morale.
- Think Outside the Box
There are two common ways that companies can donate to a nonprofit organization. The first is through Matching gift programs, wherein employees donate money to a nonprofit and then formally request that the company match their donation. The second way to donate is through Volunteer grant programs. In this scenario, employees donate their time to a nonprofit and then submit applications for their employer to donate money to the organization.
As long as the organizations that the employees are asking the company to donate to are properly vetted, these two scenarios can work very well. However, going forward it’s becoming more clear that out of the box thinking with regard to supporting social issues can be more effective at affecting social change than traditional avenues.
Often an out of the box approach will seem counterintuitive, such as a neighborhood supermarket hosting weekend farmer’s markets in their parking lots to allow local growers to sell their fresh produce. Or a local pharmacy bent on curbing drug abuse sponsoring a day when anyone can drop off drugs—both legal and illegal—to be disposed of with no questions asked. These kinds of out of the box programs can generate good will in the community and social media sharing that can heighten community awareness of a social issue and increase participation with companies in meaningful programs that help to drive real social change.