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GIVING IT AWAY— your company’s giving program

We all know that company charitable giving makes a difference, some how, some way. Donations that count, charities it supports, people it helps. Besides, it’s just a good thing to do. Right?  Well, right but to the extent that it’s really making an impact in communities and making a difference for companies. As a business owner, when you started your business, you probably weren’t prepared for making charitable contributions a part of your business plan. Let’s face it, you were putting in countless hours just to start your company and no one ever really prepared you for the fact that sooner or later you would be trying to find a way to handle many donation requests. In the past year, your company more than likely gave to various charitable causes through either checks or donated products and services. The question isn’t, did you give? Rather, the question to be asked is why you gave? Perhaps you were either asked by a good friend and you couldn’t say, "No", or you had a personal connection with the cause, or you had enough money left over in your budget to give, or if you didn’t give it might reflect negatively on you and your company.

All of these may seem like good reasons, but the fact is they are not the best way your company should be making decisions about its giving.  What you gave, how much you gave and why you gave are critical questions that should drive your decision making. Why are these questions critical? Because it is too easy to write a check, donate items or volunteer a little time. It’s really about building a deeper connection between giving and your company. It’s about making a commitment to being a part of a community and changing lives.  It’s about improving a community for all to live and work. 

Key questions to know if your company needs to refine or revamp its giving include:Is your giving somewhat unfocused and "it’s a good thing to do" describes how you give? Do you often get too many requests and there is no strategy to handle them all? It is sometimes difficult to follow up with organizations to monitor the success of your giving? Is there an uncoordinated and reactive part of your program? Do you get results for your company for gifts that are made? Is your giving budget depleted in less than 10 months? Do you often give a "little" to a "lot" so you can "help out the most charities possible?"

If you answered yes to these questions, your charitable giving isn’t making the difference you may think and you really are giving your money away. Sure your heart is in the right place, but this is about company giving. Charitable giving programs should be managed and measured just like every other aspect of your business. Giving matters most when it’s planned and focused. Giving makes a difference when it creates an impact and results for both the community and your company.  You may be thinking that isn’t very charitable-minded– for the company to get results from its giving. In fact, without results for the company, you will not know how effective you really are.  The outcome must ensure results, changes, and impact. This cannot be accomplished by a "checkbook charity" approach to giving. It’s about having a strategic approach to giving. Strategic philanthropy for companies is a way to get an understanding of the causes and social issues adopted and designing a program that ensures the cause initiatives are aligned with business goals. This translates into programs that really do make community and the bottom-line impacts.

This Business article was written by Maggie F. Keenan, Ed.D on 8/17/2005

Maggie F. Keenan, Ed.D., is a consultant and speaker to companies on corporate giving programs. She is the Principal and Owner of givingadvice. She helps companies and foundations create signature giving programs that create community and bottom-line impact. Email: or Visit