Profit Is Not Enough for a Great 21st-Century Business

Profit Is Not Enough for a Great 21st-Century Business
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Corporate philanthropy has been around for ages and has done an immeasurable amount of good for many generations.

There is, however, a paradigm shift in corporate social responsibility that's encouraging a more elegant discussion about its many business advantages.

An increasing number of progressive-minded leaders are beginning to consider looking at this "good for the corporate soul" practice as more of a central line to their strategic business planning. Although the idea of corporate philanthropy as a branding tool has only recently taken off, it is capturing the minds of many CEOs, HR directors, stakeholders and consumers. 

Yet there's still a lot of uncertainty about the size of companies that should become involved and what they need to do to see a return on their investment. Here are some pointers:

Related: Erase the Line Between Cause and Marketing

1. Address concern of possible wasted money. 

Many executives struggle with this thought, How do I know which NGOs I can trust enough to partner with?

Whether you're the CEO, an HR associate or a project manager, you have stakeholders who trust that you're managing company resources responsibly and strategically.

Even though you may mean to do good, if money is mishandled, the chance of getting a corporate social responsibility program off the ground is nil.

Begin by consulting a quality watchdog resource that rates and tracks nonprofits that partner with for-profits desiring to make a difference. Start by consulting one of these resources: CharityWatch, Give.orgGiveWellCharity NavigatorGuide Star and the Internal Revenue Service's Exempt Organizations Select Check.

2. Don't believe your organization is too small. 

Executives of a company might feel that its size is too minute for any contribution provided to make a real difference and that they should leave saving the world to McDonald's, Wal-Mart and Google.

Or they might think that their company is just treading water (and they can't worry about feeding the hungry abroad). Thus they should focus exclusively on making a profit this quarter. 

Both of these concerns are understandable. These doubts will prevail until managers better understand what becoming involved really means.

Engaging in an active corporate social responsibility program in your community will spur on others to do the same. Action taken by several smaller entities can combine to shape large change over time.

Whether a company's involvement is a gift-matching program, an employee volunteering event or a pro-bono project, a lot can be achieved.  

The return on your efforts will be more than you put in -- in time and resources.

Related: How Giving Could Become Your Default Weapon of Choice

3. Match the cause to the company's mission. 

Make the cause and partnership a logical connection that your organization's employees, customers and other stakeholders can easily see.  

Members of your team will already have some degree of knowledge about the company's philanthropic purpose if it aligns closely to your company’s mission and core directives. 

Information technology firms could donate tech support and personal computers. Clif Bar volunteers give out healthy goody bags and plant organic seedlings. Toys "R" Us partners with many Toys for Tots programs as well as smaller companies providing similar support to communities.

Match your desired cause to the mission or purpose of your company. 

Related: How Purpose and Social Responsibility Can Set a Startup Apart

4. Start small. Less is more. 

The most common error in judgment occurs when executives ambitiously strike out to develop a corporate responsiblity program and have untempered expectations that they will save the world. 

Although this is gallant, do not make this your goal. Begin modestly with goals and objectives that fit the commitment level of your decision makers and volunteer force.

Overreaching often causes team burnout and loss of executive level support. And at times this can be perceived as a failure of not just a project but of a purpose. 

Until recently many companies have been trained to think of their bottom line as their stand-alone priority. And it should be their top priority, but not without a partnered corporate philanthropic co-mission.

Corporate philanthropy is no longer a nice goal to have only after you've done well financially. This is a 21st-century marketplace and the consumer base is changing from what it was 10 or 20 years ago. Consumers of all age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds are beginning to seek out companies that are responsible corporate citizens. Be sure you make their list.

Related: Has Your Company's Charitable Giving Become an Empty Ritual?